In a report published Monday, Matt Tilley, a sexual health expert at Australia’s Curtin University, told health site MedicalXpress, "When we look at the function that those hormones might have then we can see that they assist to reduce stress, and of course endorphins specifically might act like a natural anti-depressant."
During sex, diastolic blood pressure decreases, systolic blood pressure increases, people sweat more and their heart rate increases. The hormones released during a positive sexual experience not only have health benefits but can also strengthen relationships.
"A regular sex experience with our partner, that's positive, is going to facilitate a connection," Tilley says, adding, "We may have the function of oxytocin in there, or the love hormone as it's often referred to as, which can help facilitate people's love and trust of one another."
Kevin Netto, director of research at Curtin University’s School of Physiotherapy and Exercise Science, says that sex can serve as an alternative form of exercise, if enough time is put into it. "It's exactly the same benefits as doing a full body cardio workout, but the caveat being that you have to maintain it for long enough," he said.
Research indicates that the average sexual encounter lasts about 17 minutes, while the recommended amount of time for daily exercise is some 30 minutes. Some research puts the average sexual encounter at a much shorter 5.4 minutes.
This report follows research released by the Archives of Sexual Behaviour suggesting that millennials, having found themselves in a "hookup generation," are having less sex than Baby Boomers and Generation Xers, because they tend to have fewer partners.
Some think that increased focus on physical appearance engendered by online dating, where potential mates are selected or omitted with the swipe of a finger, is to blame.
Researcher Janet Twenge says that the inherently superficial nature of digital courtship puts large swaths of the population at a disadvantage. "For a lot of folks who are of average appearance, marriage and stable relationships was where they were having sex … [and dating apps may be] leaving some people with fewer choices and they might be more reluctant to search for partners at all."
Helen Fisher, an anthropologist at Rutgers University disagrees, suggesting that millennials’ pickiness could actually result in higher quality relationships. "It’s probably a good thing … I think [taking it slowly] is going to lead to better first marriages" she said, adding, "They’ll get to the sex, I’m positive of that."