Health benefits of sex
By Tim Altman – Published on February 21, 2012
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If you already love a healthy, regular sex life then here are some other reasons why it is good for you to maintain it, other than it being fun.
If you’re struggling for motivation or inspiration to have sex regularly, perhaps this will help you change tack in your search for inspiration by providing several not so well known reasons for engaging in sex regularly.
Either way, it’s meant to be enjoyable, so the knowledge that it’s also extremely healthy doesn’t hurt.
Here are some of the many health benefits of sex:
Stress relief – Surveys have found that those who have sex more regularly also reported that they felt more at ease, happier and were better able to handle stress. Many people also suggest that their sleep is much better and feel more vitality during the day.
There is an intense sensation of euphoria, calm and relaxation that follows orgasm along with the release of the hormones oxytocin (the love hormone which helps us bond and creates the urge to nurture) and prolactin (which plays a role in lactation, but also an important role in regulation of the immune system).
One study from Scotland, published in the journal Biological Psychology, which had men and women record their sexual activity and then subjected them to stressful situations, found that those who had intercourse had better responses to stress than those who abstained or engaged in other sexual behaviours.
Boosting immunity – As mentioned above, prolactin released post orgasm plays an important role in regulating the immune system. In addition, a study from Wilkes University in the USA, found that students who had sex frequently (once or twice a week) had higher levels of IgA (an antibody or immunoglobulin which can protect the body from getting colds and other infections) than those who either abstained, had sex less than once a week or had sex very often (3 or more times per week – a disappointing discovery!).
Orgasm also leads to an increase of DHEA levels, which can boost your immune system, repair tissue, improve cognition, keep skin healthy and can even act as an antidepressant.
Burning calories – regular sex can keep you reasonably fit and can increase awareness of body image. Reports suggest varying levels of calories burned during sex (from 85 to 150 calories per half an hour). The average Australian couple has sex approximately twice per week (1.84 times) so, if this lasted half an hour, then they could burn a few hundred calories per week. And if it lasts for more than half an hour, it serves as a great workout.
A further study suggests that having sex three times per week burns the same amount of calories as running thirty miles a week!
Improved heart condition – Several studies have found (including the Scottish study above) that sex helps increase blood flow and reduce blood pressure, and regular sex is associated with lower diastolic pressure. Other research has also found that having sex twice a week or more reduced the risk of fatal heart attack by more than half for men, when compared to those who had sex infrequently (less than once a month).
Having sex regularly has also been found to drop cholesterol levels, reducing the risk of heart disease and strokes. And the old belief that sex can cause strokes has been dispelled by a study from England, which found that regular sex is not associated with increased risk of stroke.
Improved self-esteem – self-esteem is related to feeling loved, connected or wanted and sex is very often strongly associated with these feelings. Sex can give you an appreciation of your body and the pleasure it brings yourself and your partner.
A study from the University of Texas, published in the Archives of Sexual Behaviour, found that self-esteem was one of the many reasons people have sex.
Improved intimacy – the release of oxytocin during sex and especially after orgasm, increases intimacy as oxytocin, or the ‘love and cuddle hormone’, helps us bond and creates the urge to nurture. In a preliminary study published in the journal Psychiatry, the hormone oxytocin was shown to be associated with the ability to maintain healthy interpersonal relationships and healthy psychological boundaries with other people.
Reduced pain – sex is also a pain reliever, ten times more effective than typical painkillers: immediately before orgasm, as the levels of oxytocin rise by up to five times, a huge release of endorphins occurs. These chemicals calm pain, from a minor headache to arthritis or migraines, and with no secondary effects. Migraines also disappear because the pressure in the brain’s blood vessels is lowered while we have sex. So now we see that actually, a woman’s headache is rather a good reason for having sex, not against it.
Reduced risk of prostate cancer – Various studies have shown that a high ejaculation frequency and sexual activity are linked to a lower risk of prostate cancer later in life, especially in 20-something men. A study found out that men who ejaculated 13 to 20 times monthly presented a 14% lower risk of prostate cancer than men who ejaculated on average, between 4 and 7 times monthly for most of their adult life. Those ejaculating over 21 times a month presented a 33% decreased risk of developing prostate cancer than the baseline group.
Strengthened pelvic floor muscles – doing pelvic floor exercises, known as Kegels, during sex will offer benefits for both women and men. These exercises are done by tightening the muscles of the pelvic floor (especially the perineum), as if you are trying to stop the flow of urine.
By doing these exercises, women will enjoy more pleasure during sex, and the increased strength of the pelvic floor muscles will offer more pleasure to men also. Women will also reduce the risk of incontinence later in life due to the greater strength of these muscles. Men who strengthen these muscles will also experience this benefit. In addition, the increased ability to contract these muscles will help men delay ejaculation for extended periods of time (and in return potentially offering women greater pleasure) – a practice that has been carried out for many thousands of years by practitioners of ‘tantric sex’.
Improved sleep – While sex is an arousing and stimulating activity, it seems to cause a drop in body temperature, which makes it easier to fall asleep. Sex also appears to induce a deep sleep. Research has also found that increased oxytocin levels during sex and orgasm also help to promote sleep
Increased lifespan – a ten year study carried out at Queens University in Belfast, on 1,000 middle-aged men, found that regular sex increases lifespan. For the same age and health, those who had frequent orgasms had half the death rate of those who did not. The suggested cause of this was the significant reduction in stress hormones experienced post orgasm.
Increased hormone levels – both testosterone and oestrogen levels are boosted via regular sexual activity. And this increase offers numerous health benefits.
In addition to boosting sex drive, testosterone helps to fortify bones and muscles, and keeps the heart in good working order. In women, the increased testosterone will boost their sexual desire. In women, healthy levels of oestrogen help prevent against heart disease and play a huge role in women’s menstrual cycles, emotions and their scent. In men, increased oestrogen (especially in later years as testosterone drops) makes them calmer.