Today’s focus on sensuality and the good life looks at the science behind 32 health benefits of sex with a trusted partner.
Naysayers, please read on, because science is on my side.
The health benefits of sex is not a Cosmo tale for “silly blondes”, but rather a rich landscape of high-priority, vital information for maximum health and aging. Let’s get started because this is one pill I want you to swallow often.
32 Health Benefits of Sex
1. Stress reduction
Oxytocin released during orgasm definitely reduces stress, by lowering cortisol levels. Women stress about money more than men and tend to take To Do lists to bed with them. Sexual intimacy can be a richly-rewarding, free experience. Properly planned and with both parties being “present” and engaged during sex, many more stress-reducing health benefits of sex are outlined in research.
Female orgasms can only be triggered when the amygdala — the brain’s fear and anxiety center—is turned off. This medical reality is another reason why foreplay is important as part of sexual activity.
2. Immunity boost
Psychologists at Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre determined that moderately sexually-active people — having sex once or twice a week — had higher levels of immunoglobulin lgA. IgA binds to pathogens at all the points of entry to the body, then calls on the immune system to destroy them.
Confirming that too much of a good thing isn’t good for immune systems, the benefits of sexual activity didn’t extend to the most sexually-active people in the study. Also the study doesn’t clarify if the sexual events among the most sexually active participants involved different partners. It’s also possible that the parties had high anxiety levels and used sex for release. Stress and anxiety make lgA go down.
3. Cardiovascular benefits
A 1997 British study of 918 men from Caerphilly in Wales concluded that men who had intercourse twice a week or more were less likely to have heart attacks and other fatal coronary events. Men who had sex less than once a month had twice the rates of fatal coronary events, compared with those with the most sexual activity.
Estrogen lowers bad cholesterol, particularly in women. This benefit can be erased as women age, leaving their HDL cholesterol to rise.
4. Increased circulation and blood flow, including the brain
Finnish scientists recently followed 1,000 men aged between 55 and 75 for five years, Study participants who had sex less than once a week at the start of the study were twice as likely to develop erectile dysfunction as those who had it at least once a week.
Those who had sex three or more times a week lowered their risk fourfold.
The pulse rate of a sexually excited individual increases from 70 to 150 beats per minute, which is comparable to muscle efforts of a weight-lifter. At the moment of orgasm, blood circulation reaches its maximum surge speed, pulsing through our organs and brain.
Dr. J. Francois Eid, a urologist with Weill Medical College of Cornell University and New York Presbyterian Hospital, observes that erectile dysfunction is extension of vascular system. A lethargic member may be telling you that you have diseased blood vessels elsewhere in your body. “It could be a first sign of hypertension or diabetes or increased cholesterol levels. It’s a red flag that you should see your doctor.” Treatment and exercise, says Dr. Eid, can have things looking up again: “Men who exercise and have a good heart and low heart rate, and who are cardio-fit, have firmer erections. There very definitely is a relationship.”
5. Pain reduction
Dr. Beverly Whipple, professor emeritus at Rutgers University and a famed sexologist and author, when women masturbated to orgasm “the pain tolerance threshold and pain detection threshold increased significantly by 74.6 percent and 106.7 percent respectively.”
Orgasm releases endorphins, natural analogues of morphine, which alleviate the pain of everything from headache to arthritis to even migraine. In women, sex also prompts production of estrogen, which can reduce the pain of PMS.
Reality is that quality sex is the perfect remedy for a headache, not a reason for avoiding it.
6. Improved sleep
Because oxytocin and the intimacy of positive intimacy reduce stress, we sleep more soundly.
“There’s no doubt that sex is relaxing and so helps tackle insomnia,” says Dr David Delvin, a GP and specialist in sexual medicine. “Lots of people use sex, whether with a partner or on their own, as a way of getting to sleep. That’s down to the surge in oxytocin during arousal and orgasm, which is a natural sedative.”
This view is backed up by a 2000 US study carried out in 2000, which found that 32 per cent of the 1,866 female respondents who reported masturbating in the previous three months said it helped them sleep.
7. Less sleep, improved longevity
Only a crazy journalist would write that sex is good for you because you sleep a bit less, making time for lovemaking, and that might be good for you. We know that women say they are tired, out of energy and want sleep more than anything in the world.
“I don’t have time for sex” is a common lament of today’s woman.When married women also want to read a book or watch a movie, rather than have sex, the situation is a bit more complicated for their husbands. According to iVillage, a huge number of women feel this way. Perhaps women just want some peace and quiet.
New research on optimal sleep times intersects with another important study, suggesting that optimum sleep for longevity in women may be around 6 hours a night. This isn’t the number women want to hear, and they feel exhausted for many reasons, including lack of exercise, but medical researchers would say that needing to sleep seven hours, rather than make love, may not be the right set of health priorities.
8. Lower blood pressure
In April 2010 Brazilian health minister Jose Temporao announced a new national campaign against high blood pressure. Itemizing the To Do List for the country, the minister checked off diet, exercise, regular blood-pressure checks — and he also reminded everyone that one way to get a good cardiovascular workout is with more sexytime, adding, “always with protection, obviously.”
In a two-step connection — probably 10 if we add them up — researchers at Indiana University found that simple household chores can lower your blood pressure as much medication. Professor Janet Wallace’s team found that a few hours of “lifestyle physical activity” a day can drop systolic blood pressure by an average of about 13 points.
Here’s the payoff: nothing turns a woman on more than a man doing household chores. Just last week, the London School of Economics determined that men doing housework — regardless of whether the wife works or not — may be the largest predictor of divorce rates.
Because she’s turned over over him cleaning up the kitchen, a couple will be extra frenzied in bed, expending even more energy. As the Brazilian health minister knows, this is a win-win and a win for the whole nation.
Be mindful also that poor sleep increases blood pressure. Take a dose of oxytocin before bedtime.
9. Dendrite growth in brain
Researchers have only recently understood that the adult brain is capable of growing new neurons. Brain health isn’t all down hill after all, as we age. This MIT paper will bring you current if you’re in the dark about dendrites. Novelty and breaking out of routines is critical for stimulating new dendrite growth and brain activity.
Simply stated, you can do crossword puzzles or those Sudoku challenges; you can walk home a different way in your neighborhood; or you can take your partner to bed with the commitment to try new and novel — but always nurturing — approaches to your sexual experiences.
Starting now, we must associate creative sexual experience with brain regeneration. Should we make this health benefit of positive sex #1? Read Anne’s special essay Mrs. Khaki Pants | Neurobic Sex Inspires Smarter Brains.
10. Strengthened pelvic muscles
Women who exercise their Kegel muscles are known for creating superior orgasms for men. A woman strengthens her Kegel muscles by contracting them as if she is stemming her flow of urine. In addition to developing better bladder control, exercising Kegel muscles can also make a woman more sensually aware, producing strong sensations of mild pleasure in a woman’s sexual anatomy.
178 Belgian men who exercise their Kegel muscles had better control of the flow of semen and urine, stronger erections, and — ahem — stronger “shooting power” in their ejaculations. Over the four-month study focused primarily on Kegel exercises for minor erection problems, 74 percent showed improvement and 43 percent were cured.
11. Lower risk of breast cancer
A French study found that women with a long history of having frequent sex without a condom had one-third the risk of developing breast cancer than women who either didn’t have frequent sex or who had sex with condoms. The test is yet another another clue into new research that ‘safe’ semen has health benefits for women beyond reproduction.
Mother Nature could be capable of playing such an ironic joke on men and women.
DHEA production surges during sexual activity. Both animal and human studies indicate that low DHEA levels predispose to breast cancer.
12. Lower risk of prostate cancer
Even the Journal of the American Medical Association has reported that “high ejaculation frequency was related to decreased risk of prostate cancer. In all honesty, intercourse doesn’t bring health benefits beyond masturbation.
In 2009 researchers at Nottingham University concluded that men who were regularly sexually active in their 50s were at a lower risk of developing prostate cancer.
A National Cancer Institute Survey of 30,000 middle-aged men found that those who averaged 21 ejaculations a month showed a 33 percent lower risk of prostate cancer than those with 4 to 7 ejaculations a month.
If you’re a married woman who isn’t interested in sex often or at all, and in addition you resent your husband’s desire to masturbate, please get online and consider the fact that not only are orgasms good for both of you, in his case, it’s a health prerequisite.
13. Bone health
The oxytocin released during orgasm and also intimate touching and fondling lowers cortisol levels, which are known for attacking bones, muscles and joints to sustain themselves.
Healthy levels of testosterone, estrogen and DHEA are key to bone health in men and women. Without supplements, healthy sexual activity is the best trigger — preferably combined with a dedicated exercise program — to insure bone health. Both activities give the surges that keep us looking young.
14. Fewer menopause symptoms
Dr Peter Bowen-Simpkins, consultant gynaecologist at the London Women’s Clinic and spokesperson for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists advises that estrogen is key to a woman’s sexual enjoyment - lower levels can make sex uncomfortable, he explains.
American researchers found that menopausal women who had sex every week had estrogen levels twice as high as their abstaining counterparts.
Have some menopausal symptoms become so enculturated that a woman experiences them, where or not they are real? RedHotMammas reminds us:
… it is a common myth that all women experience a decreased sex drive and decline in sexual activity at menopause. The results of gynecological and psychological studies report 50 percent of menopausal women report no decline in sexual desire. Less than 20 percent report any significant decline in sexual interest.2
15. Healthier, more robust semen
In a study of 188 Australian men with DNA-damaged sperm, fertility specialist David Greening determined that daily sex improved the quality of sperm.
In three studies, men who had frequent intercourse had a higher volume of semen, healthier and more robust sperm, and a higher sperm count, compared with men who tended to participate in other sexual activities.
16. Weight management
Most sex writers focus on the calories expended during sex, calculating about 150 calories for a 30 minute sensual encounter or 450-600 calories a week expended from sexual activity.
We’re a bit dubious just how much exercise gets expended during a romp in bed among modern couples. But let’s do the math for fun. Using the standard calculations an active sex life can result in lost or not gained weight of about 9 pounds a year.
Reduce this amount to 5 pounds a year, because you love sex but both you and your partner are slugs in bed. Any way you look at the math, sex 3-4 times a week will keep your weight under control — unless you feed each other brownies as part of foreplay. That’s a no-no.
We know for certain that oxytocin reduces cravings. When scientists administered oxytocin to rodents addicted to cocaine, morphine, or heroin, they opted for less drugs, or showed fewer symptoms of withdrawal. Women release even more oxytocin during orgasm then men, and eating less is an added benefit for both parties — if you cancel the celebration. No pizza parties after sex or forget what you just read.
Oxytocin is positively associated with lowering cortisol levels. High cortisol levels are associated with weight gain and unbalanced metabolisms.
17. Wound healing
Again, the miraculous oxytocin is a key player. Wounded hamsters heal twice as fast when they are paired with a sibling, rather than left in isolation. Increased production of oxytocin is a factor. Estrogen has profound effects on the inflammatory phase of healing. Especially in women, skin thins as we age. Higher levels of estrogen in our bodies not only make our skin continue to radiate a healthy “touch me” look, but help also in wound healing.
Remember you don’t have to be on bio-identical hormone replacement therapy to increase levels of estrogen. You must believe that younger, healthier skin is just one more reason to enjoy sex.
18. Muscular agility
Muscular contractions during intercourse work the pelvis, thighs, buttocks, arms, neck and thorax. The more stretching and assuming poses above, below and intertwined with our partners, the more we stretch our muscles and also exercise them vigorously.
Dr Claire Bailey of the University of Bristol says regular sex sessions not only firm a woman’s tummy and buttocks but also improve her posture.
The testosterone released in sexual activity and orgasm builds not only bone and also lean muscle tissue.
19. Healthy vagina and penis
The rule here is “use it or lose it”. Simply stated, your vagina should be exercised to keep tissues alive and the blood flowing. This is a center of a woman’s vitality and life force.
Women are notorious for saving their vagina for the right man, and I’m not suggesting for a moment that the right person isn’t important, but there are self-pleasuring ways to keep your vagina healthy until s(he) comes along.
If a woman doesn’t use her vagina, it narrows from disuse, leading to a condition of dysparenia, or pain associated with intercourse. We repeat that self-stimulation can accomplish a great deal for keeping one’s vagina healthy and flourishing.
Some scientists have linked lack of sexual activity to structural changes in the penis or testicles.
‘We know that men who don’t have regular ejaculations or sexual intercourse have lower levels of testosterone,’ says Professor Pierre Bouloux, consultant endocrinologist at University College London and the Royal Free Hospital.
In a study of 989 men aged 55 to 75 years in Finland, men reporting intercourse less than once per week at baseline had twice the incidence of erectile dysfunction as those haveing sex two or more times a week.
And if your testosterone levels fall and you don’t get erections, penile tissues can lose some of their elasticity, which in turn could make them appear smaller.
20. Better teeth
Semen — seminal plasma — contains zinc, calcium and other minerals shown to retard tooth decay. While many women are squeamish about semen, it has many health benefits for women.
21. Improved sense of smell
After sex, our production of the hormone prolactin surges, causing stem cells in the brain to develop new neurons in the brain’s smell center, the brain’s olfactory bulb.
22. Healthier skin
Sexual intercourse makes the skin beautiful with increased estrogen and improved collagen production. Sweating during sex provided nourishing skin benefits, opening pores and allowing skin to shed impurities.
23. Testosterone and Estrogen boost
Testosterone depletion is a normal consequence of aging in men. One consequence of this is an increased risk for the development of Alzheimer’s Disease.
Dr Winifred Cutler, a specialist in behavioral endocrinology and director of the Athena Institute for Women’s Wellness in Pennsylvania found that women who enjoyed regular weekly sex with a man had significantly higher levels of estrogen in their blood than women who abstained.
A group of men being treated for erectile problems saw greater increases in testosterone when, along with the treatments, they had frequent sex. Specifically, men who had sex at least eight times per month had greater increases than those who had sex less than eight times per month.
24. Improved menstrual cycles
Sex can lessen menstrual cramps, while helping to regulate a woman’s monthly cycle. Sexual activity helps to balance a woman’s hormones during her monthly cycle, including during menstruation when her hormones have shifted from “desire” to “despair” in just a few days of her cycle.
25. Anti-depressant properties
A study of 293 college students at the State University of New York in Albany by Gordon Gallup suggests that semen acts as an antidepressant. (Note, we disavow sex between unknown partners without condoms.) It’s believed that prostoglandin, a hormone found only in semen, may be absorbed in the female genital tract, thus modulating female hormones.
At the time of the study, Gallup stated that an unpublished study of 700 women confirmed the same conclusion.
Dopamine release works against depression, inspiring us with a great sense of well-being — as long as we’re not sex addicts. In that case the “fall” from a dopamine high could crash through any benefits of an oxytocin-calm, leaving an individual dissatisfied and seeking another thrill soon after.
Dopamine gets a bad reputation sometimes, but it’s an essential, powerful hormone in activating our vitality and sensual wellbeing. Dutch scientists studying the brain scans of orgasmic people find their brains appear to be in a heroin rush of unadulterated pleasure.
26. Decreased propensity towards violence
Low testosterone levels are associated with aggression and mood disorders. Oxytocin reduces antisocial behavior. The administration of oxytocin normalized social behaviors in animals exhibiting schizophrenia.
Researchers are turning the culture of testosterone-infused behavior upsidedown. The headline “decreased propensity towards violence” is not a mistake. In fact, low testosterone may be the reason behind bad-boy behavior.
The repositioning of testosterone can be one of the most interesting research breakthroughs in the coming decade. Fear not increasing your testosterone, because it will soon be classified as a friendly, sexy hormone. It would only be fair to look at estrogen as a link to aggression, and that examination is also underway in the world’s research labs.
27. Human connection & intimacy
A single rat injected with oxytocin has a calming affect on other rats in the cage. Researchers have concluded that Oxytocin promotes healthy social behavior.
Researchers at Miami’s Touch Research Institute (TRI) found that premature infants who received three massages a day over 10 days gained 47 percent more weight than preemies who weren’t massaged. Practitioners of erotic massage make it a key part of regular lovemaking and often an alternative.
Massage is one of the best ways to help someone achieve extended, multiple, or “whole body” orgasmic states, an often irreplaceable intimacy, extraordinary pleasure and especially for the woman — a letting go of her brain, which required for maximum release and celebration of her sexual spirit.
It’s indisputable in America that low-sex marriages tend to end in divorce.
In a 2008 Finnish study, researchers found that in couples aged 33 to 43, relationship satisfaction was highest in those couples who had sexual intercourse and sessions of kissing and petting as often as they hoped.
A 2005 study (Litzinger and Gordon) confirmed that a good sexual relationship can minimize the fallout from communication problems in a relationship.
28. Greater happiness, joy, vitality
Good sex releases a cocktail of life-affirming endorphins. A study done by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that marriages featuring frequent sex left couples feeling as happy as earning an extra $100,000 annually.
Women experiencing more orgasms have higher emotional intelligence, according to research in 2009. (Note: the Internet has turned the study into one confirming higher intelligence IQs in women who have frequent sex, and we’re not confirming that statement. We do believe that creative sexual activity inspired dendrite growth in the brain.)
“Sex in America”, the 1994 Laumann, Gagnon, Michael, and Michaels study found that sexual satisfaction and sexual well-being are inextricably linked.
29. Improved self-esteem, confidence, body love
Questions of self-confidence in the bedroom apply to both genders. Anecdotal stories and research studies tell us that 50 years after the second wave of American feminism, sexual self-confidence remains more of a woman’s challenge.
Being sex confident doesn’t imply becoming an ego maniac in the bedroom. We know that confidence and body-image are very tied to sexual desire or sexual receptivity. Women who feel more positively about their genitals find it easier to orgasm and are more likely to engage in sexual health promoting behaviors, such as having regular gynecological exams or performing vulvar self-examinations.
On our journey to the land of “la dolce vita” we will explore in depth body hatred and obesity, with sexual guilt as a prime trigger for over eating. In our experience, a healthy body love and sensuality inspire a woman to hit the exercise equipment.
Each woman’s challenge involves her taking charge of her own sexuality in a patriarchal world of moral values, social institutions, friends and family and social culture — all of them with a vested interested in telling her how to behave in the bedroom.
Developing a positive attitude about sex and embracing it with a trusted partner opens our ability to thrive on a sensual stage.
30. Enhanced spirituality
Today our sexuality is influenced by Eastern spirituality. To be passionate about the sensuality of life is to be full of chi or the energy of existence. The English words “desire” or “passion” connotes a feeling of yearning for connection that includes sex, but they also reflect our strongest feelings about life.
“Chi,” the Chinese word for life energy, is the force within our bodies and within the universe that engenders life. The word itself has many translations, such as energy, air, breath, wind, or vital essence. There are 49 cultures around the world that understand the concept of chi in one form or another; examples include Ki (Japanese), Prana (Sanskrit), Lung (Tibetan), Neyatoneyah (Lakota Sioux), Num (Kalahari Kung), and Ruach (Hebrew).
Western culture doesn’t share this concept of life energy in any depth, but sensual humans seek it implicitly in our lovemaking. Bathed in an endorphin orgasm, our Western frenetic, wired, anxious pace tends to throw water on the glowing embers of Eastern orgasms. Yet the sexually spiritual moment is ours for the taking — and more Americans seek to fill the void of empty, meaningless, robotic sex.
31. Youthful appearance
Dr. Weeks studied the lifestyles of a group of about 3000 people judged to look 10 years or more younger than their actual age.
His book is no longer in print, but I own it. The top two lifestyle characteristics of his older were sex at least three times a week and lots of exercise.
32. Increased life expectancy
The longevity benefits to men of increased sexual activity are better studied and less difficult to interpret. We’ve noted that in widely-quoted British study, increased sexual activity was associated with lower rates of heart attacks. A Swedish study examining the lives of 70-year-olds found that men who died before their 75th birthday had ceased having sexual intercourse at earlier ages.
The same study didn’t find that women lived longer if they had sex more frequently; nor did a North Carolina study. However, in the now-dated NC study, a 25-year-followup of 252 panelists evaluating 22 variables that they associated with longevity, the women’s top three predictors were health satisfaction, past enjoyment of intercourse and physical function rating.
The FDA has not approved growth hormone supplements and the Harvard Men’s Health Watch just reported in its May 2010 issue that the benefits of taking supplements are dubious when physical benefits of increased muscle mass and loss of fat are evaluated against the side effects.
Scientists continue to study the effect of natural DHEA on health and longevity. DHEA levels rise just before orgasm and ejaculation to three times higher than normal. DHEA, which is made in the adrenal glands, functions as a hormonal building block, much like estrogen, testosterone and progesterone.
In one study published in the New England Journal of Medicine men with apparently healthy hearts and low DHEA levels had a 3.3 times greater chance of dying of heart disease during the next 12 years when compared to men with normal DHEA levels.