Should I abstain from sex before a big sporting event?
Dr Tlaleng Mofokeng answers your sex questions
Q. I'm running a marathon soon. Should I abstain from sex?
A. The relationship between sexual activity and athletic performance is controversial. There have been systematic reviews to evaluate scientific evidence about the possible effects of sexual activity on the subsequent performance of athletes taking part in sports competitions.
Some of the studies include data on the effects of sex on muscle strength, cardiovascular function, aerobic performance and lung capacity, co-ordination and hand-grip strength.
In 2011, the most significant research comparing sexually active people with those who practised abstinence took place at the University of Montreal. The study concluded that there were no substantial differences in terms of physiological variables: heart rate and blood pressure, sport-specific parameters (upper and lower limb strength, reaction time, hamstring flexibility), and biochemical variables (testosterone, cortisol, and glucose levels).
Some studies have looked at the differences between sporting codes. In 1997, a US study looked at the rituals of various sports teams and showed that soccer players are more likely to be celibate before a match than baseball players are.
An athlete's performance, excellence, agility, precision and concentration on the sports field is subject to many factors.
Although abstinence is popular and continues to be considered important in sports, there is insufficient evidence to support the idea that engaging in sex ahead of an event will have a detrimental effect on one's performance in the event.
• Dr Tlaleng Mofokeng (MBChB), sexual and reproductive health practice, DISA Clinic, 011-886-2286, visit safersex.co.za.
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