April 28, 2010— -- Brazil's Minister of Health has created a stir this week by suggesting that to get healthier, his country's people try to have sex five times a week.
Minister Jose Gomes Temporao said he's worried about Brazilians' rising rates of diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure, so along with the usual advice on diet and exercise, he thought people should make love more often.
"It's not a joke, I'm serious. Getting physical exercise regularly also means having sex, obviously protected sex," Temporao told reporters Monday in the Brazilian capital of Brasilia, according to the U.K's Telegraph. His remarks were part of the launch of a campaign to reduce blood pressure in Brazil.
The Brazilian Health Ministry reported that that 21.5 percent of Brazilians had high blood pressure in 2006, and the number increased to 24.4 percent in 2009, according to the Associated Press.
The idea might appeal to some regardless of their health goals, but experts are divided on just how beneficial sex can be for preventing chronic diseases.
Take exercise -- researchers say when it comes to the simple physical health benefits of working out, sex hardly compares to riding a bike.
"You're not going to get the same [physical health] benefit as going out for a two-mile jog," said Dr. Jamie Feldman, an associate professor at the University of Minnesota Department of Family Medicine and Community Health.
Looking at the standard unit of exercise called METs (metabolic units), Feldman said sexual activity ranges from 2 METs to 3 or 4 METs during orgasm. That's on par with walking at 2 miles per hour on level ground. By comparison, a leisurely bike ride clocks in at 6-7 METs.
"Sexual activity provides some degree of modest exercise," said Feldman, who added that every little bit of activity counts. "But it's not the same as getting moderate exercise for 30 minutes a day."
"Some people might like it more than jogging --- so in that sense that is helpful," she said.