Sex = bad stress?

Dear Alice,

I have two questions to ask you. First, can too much sex lead to bad stress? I've heard and thought about how having too much sex can lead to bad stress. I came to this conclusion: when you're having sex, the heart is pumping rapidly and emotions are high. When you reach climax, your heart is pounding at an extreme rate of pressure. This comes to my mind: too much pressure can lead to stress because it raises the blood pressure. Tell me, is this true or is it logical of what I am saying??? Cause I heard this from my science teacher a long time ago and I have been thinking about it and trying to put myself in that position. Second question, can sex also be a source of toning the body, increase of weight, and more muscle mass????


Dear Reader,

You and your science teacher are correct in thinking that sexual arousal and activity result in temporarily higher blood pressure and increased respiration, among other physiological changes. Thanks to this increased blood flow, the genitals can swell up during sexual performance and pleasure. However, these natural physiological changes are hardly creating "bad stress" for your body. In fact, the body's responses to sex are followed by a deeper state of relaxation than before sex began, complete with reduced muscle tension and brain activity. The conclusion? In addition to exercise, laughing, talking with friends, and many other enjoyable activities, safer sex can actually be a great way to release any stress in your life!

Whether you are currently sexually active or not, the body is built for sexual activity and the associated physiological reactions. However, keep in mind that certain sexual situations may be inherently stressful, due to sexual and interpersonal challenges, concerns, and mishaps. Communication with your partner and using appropriate protective measures are key to keeping sex relatively stress-free. Aging individuals also might have to adjust their sexual practices to account for changes in libido, physical responses, and health concerns. Recent surgery, heart conditions, diabetes, high blood pressure, anxiety, depression and medications can affect one's sexual interest and/or physical ability to respond sexually. But don't stress — having fulfilling sexual relations is possible at any age. Partners may simply need to spend more time experimenting with activities and techniques. Plus, it is important to be understanding of each other's strengths and weaknesses. This is true at every life stage!

As for your second question, unless you're bench-pressing your sex partner or doing "it" on a treadmill, you probably won't see too much in the way of muscle toning and its associated weight gain. But, hey, there's nothing wrong with incorporating a bodybuilding routine into sex if all involved are willing participants.

Thanks for your question — it's never too late to ask and learn!

Last updated Mar 31, 2014
Originally published Sep 03, 1999

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