Sex and Longevity | Health Benefits of Loving Sex

Growing numbers of research studies support the basic argument that good sex, especially when combined with physical exercise:

• promotes longevity and good health
• helps you to look younger
• leaves you with a positive sense of psychological and emotional wellbeing
• helps keep relationships together

Can living longer be reason enough to take another look at the quality of your sex life? Will you approach your partner differently, after I’ve explained that ongoing good sex with your spouse promotes cardiovascular health, in both men and women?

This is breakthrough news! What more could you ask for? Who doesn’t want to live longer, especially if you can live better, bathed in the benefits of an intimate, loving, sensual encounter?

Sex and Longevity

Serious research on sexuality began in the U.S. in the 1950’s with Alfred Kinsey and his famous Kinsey reports. Kinsey reported that sex reduces stress, and that people who have fulfilling, satisfying sex lives are less anxious, less violent, and even less hostile.

One of the first longitudinal studies of aging began at Duke University in the ‘50s and reported in the December 1982 journal Gerontologist established a link between the frequency of sexual intercourse (for men) and the enjoyment of sex (for women) as a predictor for longevity. The Duke study of 270 men and women over a span of 25 years seemed to suggest that an active sex life has a positive correlation with longer life span. Researchers could not conclude whether people lived longer because of the benefits of physical exercise, an emotional connection, or both. A possible bias in the Duke study is the fact that healthier men tend to be more sexually active.

Several studies have found that sexual dissatisfaction was a predictor of the onset of cardiovascular disease. A study published in the November-December 1976 journal Psychosomatic Medicine compared 100 women with heart disease with a control group. Researchers found sexual frigidity and dissatisfaction among 65% of the coronary patients but only 24% of the controls.

In one of the most credible studies correlating overall health with sexual frequency, done in Caerphilly, Wales, Queens University in Belfast tracked the mortality of about 1,000 middle-aged men over the course of a decade. The study was designed to compare persons of comparable lifestyle and economic circumstances, and similar ages and health.

Researchers were introduced to their subjects, who were 45 to 59 when the study began (1979-83). A decade later, they checked back on the men, who were now 55 to 69. The findings, published in 1997 in the British Medical Journal, were that men who reported having orgasms twice a week enjoyed a death rate half that of men having sex once a month. For the entire group, as sexual frequency increased, risk of death decreased.

A 1976 study published in Psychosomatic Medicine suggests that a failure to reach orgasm may have a negative impact on women’s hearts. In the control group, just 24 percent of the women reported sexual dissatisfaction. In the group of women who had heart attacks, the report of sexual dissatisfaction prior to their attack was 65 percent. (Check to see if this is Lowen’s study)

A study from the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality conducted by Dr. Ted McIlvenna looked at the sex lives of 90,000 American adults. He found that sexually active people take fewer sick leaves and generally enjoy life more.

More Health Benefits from Good Sex

Preventive gerontologist Michael Roizen, M.D. has reviewed more than 25,000 studies linking lifestyle factors to longevity. Roizen estimates that you can add nearly two years to your life, simply by having good sex twice a week. “Having more sex for men, a higher quality of sex for women, correlates with being younger.”

Perimenopausal women (average age 49) with “weekly sexual behavior” were found to have fewer “hot flashes” and tended to age more slowly. (The Futurist, June-July 1999, p.34)

The indirect evidence that good sex is directly linked to improved health, and therefore, longevity, increases every year. As scientists learn more about links between good sex, our brains, emotions and body functions, they will directly confirm the linkage between good sex and longevity. We know today that good sex is associated with wellness in many ways.

“A good sexual relationship is essential to good health,” says Dr. Barbara Bartlick, psychiatry professor who founded the Human Sexuality Program at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York.

Studies have documented the connection between sex and good health in specific, sometimes unexpected ways. They also confirm the holistic nature of these benefits, as researchers uncover the complete picture of sensual physiology in men and women.

Each of these health benefits is available to you. This is why I want you to take another look at your lover when you’re lying in bed tonight. Perhaps you’re not so tired after all.

Researchers generally agree the benefits of good sex include:

1. Because sex causes deep breathing and an increased heart rate, it improves circulation. As fresh blood supply arrives, your cells, organs and muscles are saturated with fresh oxygen and hormones, and used blood is removed, eliminating waste products that cause fatigue and illness. Lovemaking keeps organs and tissues functioning at their peak.

2. Regular sex, especially the tantalizing, catch-me-if-you-can kind, may improve your memory and even make you smarter. “Studies show that intense stimulation, like the kind sex provides, can produce chemicals in the brain that help brain cells grow new dendrites—the filaments attached to nerve cells that allow neurons to communicate with one another. And the more dendrites that you have, explains Lawrence Katz, Ph.D, professor of neurobiology at the Duke University Medical Center, the better you learn and the more you remember.

Werner Habermehl, one of Germany’s leading sexual behavior experts from the Hamburg Medical Research Institute, says that regular sexual intercourse excites not only the body, but also the brain. Researchers studied the brains of university students and discovered that those who regularly had sex registered far more brain activity than those not sexually active.

According to Habermehl, the increased amounts of adrenaline and cortisol hormones that are produced during the sex act stimulate the Grey matter. “Sex makes you more intelligent in that experiences are collected that can be used later on in areas of your life not linked to sex.” Professor Habermehl believes that brain activity is an indicator of a person’s intelligence.

Habermehl also believes that the added injection of endorphins and serotonin that results in orgasm strengthens one’s self-confidence.

3. Good sex promotes cardiovascular fitness. During sex with your spouse or long-term partner, your heart rate goes up to about 120 beats per minute, from a normal of 70 beats per minute. 120 beats per minute is a healthy range for cardiovascular fitness. According to Dr. Fleur Sack, president of the Florida Academy of Family Physicians, if you’re having an extramarital affair, your heart beat rises to 180 beats per minute. The incidence of heart attack among men having extramarital sex is higher, than for those in a committed relationship.

4. Sexual activity is a great form of exercise. 30 minutes of sex burns on average 150 calories. Making love modestly three times every week burns around 7,500 calories in a year – the equivalent of jogging 75 miles. If you add more athletic prowess to one weekly session and one monthly, sizzling session of extended lovemaking, you will burn close to 10,000 calories annually.


sex                    150 calories per half hour
yoga                  114
walking 3mph   153
weight training  153
volleyball           174

Those who are more sexually active, into Tantra, for example, where lovemaking can last 4 hours, would burn up 600 calories each session. At once a week, that 31,200 calories or 9 pounds per year.

If we consider the fact that most people tend to put on weight gradually, perhaps gaining 5-10 pounds per year to their maximum weight, we can argue that regular sexual activity is one excellent way to maintain weight control.

We know that the national obesity epidemic is directly linked to the fact that we don’t get nearly as much exercise as we did in the 1950’s. Researchers now believe that sexual activity among married couples has also declined since the 1950s.

You read these words correctly. Thirty plus years after the sexual revolution, researchers believe that married couples are having less sex at home. The demands of work, home and family are dampening our libidos and calories burned in the bedroom.

Dr. Michael Circigliano, M.D., an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine says that in addition to the aerobic benefits of sex, there is some small amount of benefits associated with resistance training. “During arousal and orgasm there is myotonia, or contraction, of the muscles.” As in weight training, the more lifting, spinning and thrusting that is incorporated into sex, the greater the benefits, in terms of muscle-building.

Another benefit of kissing is that engaging your tongue helps tone the muscles of your face. Even passionate kisses can burn as many as two calories a minute.

5. Sex is a great anti-anxiety and stress reliever.
Consider it a mental health tonic. Some argue that it’s 10 times as effective as Valium, due to the surge during sex in key hormones, including oxytocin.

We tend to associate stress reduction with women, but sex is potentially the most effective stress reliever for men. The benefits of mood improvement and sense of relaxed well-being are just as vital to men as women.

This state of letting go, actually surrendering to the stresses of daily living frequently results in a deeper, longer-lasting sleep. In the afterglow of good sex, you are better able to let go of distracting thoughts that interrupt sleep, thereby overcoming insomnia in many cases.

The Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality has found that people with fulfilling sex lives are in fact less anxious, violent and hostile.

6. Frequent ejaculation isn’t associated with prostate cancer. In a Spring 2004 article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, results of a large study covering 29,000 men concluded that frequent ejaculation is not associated with an increase in the development of prostate cancer.

In fact, in this study, men with 21 or more ejaculations per month have a one-third reduced risk of developing prostate cancer over a span of a lifetime, than those with 4-7 ejaculations per month.

The more sex that men have, the lower their chances of developing prostatis – an enlargement of the prostate due to fluid buildup.

“If a man is ejaculating on a fairly regular basis of one, two, three or more times weekly,” says Stephen N. Rous, M.D., a professor of surgery at Dartmouth Medical School and author of The Prostate Book, “and then, for whatever reason, his frequency of orgasm and ejaculation decreases sharply, it is likely that the prostate gland will become overly full of fluid.”

7. Regular sexual activity boots testosterone and estrogen levels in both men and women, with a benefit of fortifying bones and muscles. DHEA levels, which spike to levels three to five times higher than usual, also promote bone growth in both men and women.

8. DHEA ratchets up the immune system. Endorphins released in the brain during sex boost the immune system, minimizing colds and flu. At Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, researchers surveyed 111 young adults about their frequency of partner sex, and then tested their saliva for a key component of the immune system, immunoglobulin A (IgA). Compared with participants who reported partner sex less than once a week, those who had sex once or twice a week had significantly higher IgA levels.

9. Good sex can increase a woman’s estrogen level, protecting her heart and keeping her vaginal tissues more supple. Women engaging in weekly sexual behavior have estrogen levels about twice as high as their less sexually active contemporaries. (The Futurist, June-July 1999, p.34)

10. Sex stabilizes menstrual cycles. Dr. Winnifred Cutler, a specialist in behavioral endocrinology and discoverer of human pheromones in 1986, believes that women who have intercourse at least once a week are more likely to have normal menstrual cycles than women who are celibate or who have infrequent sex.

11. Sex is a beauty treatment. Scientific tests find that when women make love, the estrogen produced also makes hair shiny and skin smooth. This is a key reason why Superyoung women tend to have fewer wrinkles. Gentle, relaxed lovemaking reduces your chances of suffering dermatitis, skin rashes and blemishes. The sweat produced cleanses the pores and makes your skin glow.

12. Sex improves your sense of smell. The hormone prolactin surges in both genders during sex, causing the brain to develop new neurons in the brain’s olfactory bulb.

13. Semen can be effective in treating depression. In a fascinating 2002 study of 293 women, American psychologist Gordon Gallup reported that women whose male partners did not use condoms were less subject to depression. One theory suggests that prostoglandin, a hormone found only in semen, may modulate female hormones, maintaining balance and decreasing mood swings and depression, when it is absorbed through the vagina.

The endorphins released during sex have a mood-improving, antidepressant effect. Massage is also a mood-enhancer that enhances the benefits of good sex, when incorporated into lovemaking.

14. Sex is a pain reliever. As oxytocin is secreted in your body, endorphins are released. It actually relieves headaches by releasing endorphins, including oxytocin, minimizing  the tension that restricts blood vessels in the brain. Beverly Whipple and Barry Komisaruk at Rutgers University found that women experienced a higher pain threshold through regular orgasms, helping conditions ranging from whiplash to arthritis.

Testosterone is a corticosteroid, and its elevation during sex often reduces the joint inflammation of arthritis. Research suggests that some arthritis sufferers have less pain for up to 6 hours after sex.

A study from the South Illinois School of Medicine found that having an orgasm can cure migraines. Working with 52 migraine sufferers, 16 reported considerable relief after an orgasm and another eight had their headaches completely gone.

15. Sex can relieve cramps during PMS and menstruation. Blood flow to the pelvis increases five to seven days before a period, often causing bloating and cramps. Muscle contractions during orgasm force blood to flow rapidly away from the pelvic region and back into general circulation, loosing tightness.

As oxytocin triggers the orgasmic response, levels spike 3 to 5 times higher than normal, flooding the body with stress-relieving hormones, giving the female body another assist in reliving cramping.

16. Lowering cholesterol is another of the “sex as exercise” benefits. Sex helps lower overall cholesterol. More importantly, it tips the HDL/LDL (good/bad) cholesterol balance towards the healthier HDL side.

17. Kissing encourages saliva to wash food from the teeth and lowers the level of the acid that causes decay. Kissing also prevents plaque build-up.

18. Sex promotes bladder control. What we call Kegel exercises, a routine of tensing and relaxing the pelvic muscles to help resolve stress incontinence, are the same muscles involved in orgasm. Kegel exercises should also increase the intensity of orgasm.

19. A lot of lovemaking can unblock a stuffy nose.
Sex functions as an antihistamine and will help fight asthma and hay fever.

(Note: this 2006 manuscript will be updated to reflect new research on the health benefits of sex. Anne has written a summary of new research in her 32 Health Benefits of Sex.

Joie de Vivre by Leslie Taylor Paintings“La Dolce Vita” Via “Joie De Vivre”

The decision to live a life of vitality involves more than good sex and rigorous exercises. But these two promises to self anchor our new commitment to becoming the CEOs of our Superyoung Smart Sensuality life makeovers.

The decision to live longer and better days, in touch with our bodies and senses, belongs to each of us. You can embrace responsible pleasure, sensuality, longevity, and happiness. Or you can ignore what you’ve learned reading these pages, refusing ‘la dolce vita” and rejecting “joie de vivre”. 

The little girl in me asks you to consult your own little person, because that voice is calling you to choose life. Before all the enculturation, the rules, the expectations and socialization, the obligations and responsibilities, your own little person had big dreams for you. 

I’m leaving this chapter now. If you haven’t joined our caravan yet, you have another chance to get off the Autobahn superhighway that is your life and jump in my roadster, top down. 

Close your eyes now and prepare to click your heels. Oh wait. She was transported in a tornado wasn’t she? Definitely bad karma.  We’re not going to Europe in a modern flying machine either, when we’re slowing down. We need a more lyrical mode of transportation. 

Perhaps our imaginations will get us there. What a brilliant idea! Dreaming sounds like a slow boat across the sea. 

Take a deep breath and close your eyes. Breath deeply and trust me. I’m telling you that the road to “the sweet life” is a fun, life-affirming journey. And then you have the added benefit of driving with me. 

Right here, right now, I’m in the mood to get physical. Good, the light is green, so let’s get going. There’s no good reason for writing one more word about this subject on American soil. See you in Cannes.