Surprising Health Benefits of Sex
"When you're in the mood, it's a sure bet that the last thing on your mind is boosting your immune system or maintaining a healthy weight. Yet good sex offers those health benefits and more. That's a surprise to many people, says Joy Davidson, PhD, a New York psychologist and sex therapist. 'Of course, sex is everywhere in the media,' she says. 'But the idea that we are vital, sexual creatures is still looked at in some cases with disgust or in other cases a bit of embarrassment. So to really take a look at how our sexuality adds to our life and enhances our life and our health, both physical and psychological, is eye-opening for many people.'
Sex does a body good in a number of ways, according to Davidson and other experts. The benefits aren't just anecdotal or hearsay -- each of these health benefits of sex is backed by scientific scrutiny."
Sex Relieves Stress
"A big health benefit of sex is lower blood pressure and overall stress reduction, according to researchers from Scotland who reported their findings in the journal Biological Psychology. They studied 24 women and 22 men who kept records of their sexual activity. Then the researchers subjected them to stressful situations -- such as speaking in public and doing verbal arithmetic -- and noted their blood pressure response to stress. Those who had intercourse had better responses to stress than those who engaged in other sexual behaviors or abstained."
Sex Lowers Blood Pressure
"Another study published in Biological Psychology found that frequent intercourse was associated with lower diastolic blood pressure (the lower, or second, number in a blood pressure reading). This study focused on people living with their sex partner.
Still further research found a link between partner hugs and lower blood pressure in women.
Elevated blood pressure is a risk factor for coronary artery disease, heart attack, kidney disease, and stroke."
Sex Boosts Immunity
"Good sexual health may mean better physical health. Having sex once or twice a week has been linked with higher levels of an antibody called immunoglobulin A or IgA, which can protect you from getting colds and other infections. Scientists at Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., took samples of saliva, which contain IgA, from 112 college students who reported the frequency of sex they had.
Those in the 'frequent' group -- once or twice a week -- had higher levels of IgA than those in the other three groups -- who reported being abstinent, having sex less than once a week, or having it very often, three or more times weekly."
"'Sex is a great mode of exercise,' says Patti Britton, PhD, a Los Angeles sexologist and president of the American Association of Sexuality Educators and Therapists. It takes work, from both a physical and psychological perspective, to do it well, she says.
The benefits of sex as a form of exercise are many - sex can improve your cardiovascular fitness, strength, flexibility, and balance, not to mention your emotional health."
Sex Burns Calories
"Thirty minutes of sex burns 85 calories or more. It may not sound like much, but it adds up: 42 half-hour sessions will burn 3,570 calories, more than enough to lose a pound. The number of calories burned during sex is about the same as the number burned by walking at 2 miles per hour.
Doubling up on the 30 minute sessions, you could drop that pound in 21 hour-long sessions."
Sex Improves Cardiovascular Health
"While some older folks may worry that the efforts expended during sex could cause a stroke, that's not so, according to researchers from England. In a study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, scientists found that the frequency of sex was not associated with stroke in the 914 men they followed for 20 years.
And the heart health benefits of sex don't end there. The researchers also found that having sex twice or more a week reduced the risk of fatal heart attack by half for the men, compared with those who had sex less than once a month."
Sex Boosts Self-Esteem
"Boosting self-esteem was one of 237 reasons people have sex, collected by University of Texas researchers and published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior.
That finding makes sense to Gina Ogden, PhD, a sex therapist and marriage and family therapist in Cambridge, Mass., although she finds that those who already have self-esteem say they sometimes have sex to feel even better. 'One of the reasons people say they have sex is to feel good about themselves,' she tells WebMD. 'Great sex begins with self-esteem, and it raises it. If the sex is loving, connected, and what you want, it raises it.'"
Sex Strengthens Your Well-Being
"Sex, like any activity that fosters a close and loving connection to your partner, not only raises self-esteem, but strengthens your overall sense of well-being. Studies have shown that people with strong social support networks (which includes lovers) are healthier and happier than their less-connected peers."
Sex Improves Intimacy
"Having sex and orgasms increases levels of the hormone oxytocin, the so-called love hormone, which helps us bond and build trust. Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh and the University of North Carolina evaluated 59 premenopausal women before and after warm contact with their husbands and partners ending with hugs. They found that the more contact, the higher the oxytocin levels.
'Oxytocin allows us to feel the urge to nurture and to bond,' Britton says.
Higher oxytocin has also been linked with a feeling of generosity. So if you're feeling suddenly more generous toward your partner than usual, credit the love hormone."
Sex Reduces Pain
"As the hormone oxytocin surges, endorphins increase, and pain declines. So if your headache, arthritis pain, or PMS symptoms seem to improve after sex, you can thank those higher oxytocin levels."
Oxytocin – The Love Hormone
"A study published in the Bulletin of Experimental Biology and Medicine examined the response of the 'love hormone' oxytocin on pain perception in an experiment with 48 volunteers. Study participants inhaled oxytocin vapor and then had their fingers pricked. Those who had inhaled oxytocin lowered their pain threshold by more than half."
Sex Reduces Prostate Cancer Risk
"Frequent ejaculations, especially in 20-something men, may reduce the risk of prostate cancer later in life, Australian researchers reported in the British Journal of Urology International. When they followed men diagnosed with prostate cancer and those without, they found no association of prostate cancer with the number of sexual partners as the men reached their 30s, 40s, and 50s.
But they found men who had five or more ejaculations weekly while in their 20s reduced their risk of getting prostate cancer later by a third.
Another study, reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that frequent ejaculations, 21 or more a month, were linked to lower prostate cancer risk in older men, as well, compared with less frequent ejaculations of four to seven monthly."
Sex Strengthens Pelvic Floor Muscles
"For women, doing a few pelvic floor muscle exercises known as Kegel exercises during sex offers a couple of benefits. You will enjoy more pleasure, and you'll also strengthen the area and help to minimize the risk of incontinence later in life.
To do a basic Kegel exercise, tighten the muscles of your pelvic floor, as if you're trying to stop the flow of urine. Count to three, then release."
Additional Benefits of Kegel Exercises
"Kegel exercises have a number of proven health benefits in addition to making sex more enjoyable. The strengthening of the pelvic floor muscles can help prevent prolapse (a slipping out of position) of the vagina, uterus, and bladder. Pelvic floor muscles may be weakened later in life as a result of childbearing, being overweight, and aging. Kegel exercises help offset the consequences of weakened pelvic floor muscles."
Sex Helps You Sleep Better
"The oxytocin released during orgasm also promotes sleep, according to research.
And getting enough sleep has been linked with a host of other good things, such as maintaining a healthy weight and blood pressure. Something to think about, especially if you've been wondering why your guy can be active one minute and snoring the next."
Sex As Physical Exercise Also Promotes Sleep
"The physical exercise component of sex can also help you relax and sleep better, in addition to the hormonal effects. People who get regular exercise tend to sleep better and have more restful sleep. Moreover, as we have seen in the earlier part of this slideshow, sex is a great way to get some exercise."
"Take note that sex is good for you in ways you may never have imagined and that the health benefits extend well beyond the bedroom."