12 ways having sex can benefit your health

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Illustration  (PHOTO: Getty Images/Gallo Images)
Illustration (PHOTO: Getty Images/Gallo Images)

How often do we come across something that’s fun and good for you? Not often, right?

Well here’s good news from the doctor for a change – more and more studies are showing that getting intimate with your partner can boost your health.

No partner? No problem. Since many of the purported health benefits come from orgasm, you can fly solo.

And if you have a partner who’s not often in the mood, try sharing these positive side effects of regular sex to arouse their interest.

1. You’ll sleep better

We all need it, and most of us need more of it, so it can only be a bonus that an orgasm releases prolactin, a hormone that makes you feel more relaxed and sleepy, according to the American National Sleep Foundation. (That might account for why your partner starts snoring immediately after sex!) It works the other way too – studies have also suggested the more rested you are, the more sex you want.

2. You’ll boost your immunity

Researchers at Wilkes University in the USA found that people who have sex a few times a week receive a boost to their immune system with a 30% rise in levels of an antibody called immunoglobulin A, which helps protect you from colds and flu.

3. You’ll look younger

Sound too good to be true? Well, Scottish clinical neuropsychologist David Weeks, who’s done a lot of research in this field, says his experience has been that older men and women with an active love-life look five to seven years younger than their actual age. And quality is as important as quantity – so sex has its best effect when it’s loving.

Weeks says this effect is due to a combination of factors, including the release of endorphins (which act as natural painkillers, reduce anxiety and aid sleep), the circulation boost from exercise, and the release of the human growth hormone which makes the skin look more elastic.

4. You’ll get fitter

It may not burn as many kilojoules as going for a run – unless you’re particularly energetic in bed – but it does count as exercise.

A team at the University of Montreal in Canada reported men burnt around 418 kilojoules in an average sex session (typically 25 minutes including foreplay, according to this study) and women managed about 292.

Not a huge gain but a roll in the hay also involves using your muscles (experiment with different positions to use different muscle groups) and pumping up your heart rate, which can only be good. And as with any exercise, the benefits increase the more you do it.

5. You’ll improve your heart health

Research at Queen’s University Belfast in the UK found that having sex three times a week could halve your risk of having a heart attack or stroke.

Another study in Israel found that women who had two orgasms a week were up to 30% less likely to have heart disease than those who didn’t have sex or didn’t have an orgasm.

And a tumble under the covers has also been linked to preventing an increase in blood pressure during stressful events, says a study at the University of the West of Scotland.

The advantages come from the aerobic exercise you get and the stress-reduction factor and, in women specifically, orgasm stimulates the release of the hormone oxytocin, which has a direct effect on lowering blood pressure.

6. You’ll boost your brain power

Boffins at the universities of Oxford and Coventry in the UK linked frequent sexual activity to improved brain function in older adults. Those with the highest level of lust and thrust – more than once a week – scored the best in tests relating to attention, memory, language and spatial performance.

Scientists believe the brain boost may be due to the release of various chemicals during sex, most notably dopamine, which is the main fuel of the brain’s reward centre and plays a major role in learning. Another possibility is that frequent sex helps the brain to grow new neurons, which is vital to its ability to adapt and change.

7. You’ll reduce your risk of prostate cancer

Men who ejaculate more than 21 times a month are 33% less likely to get prostate cancer than those who didn’t, according to a study done at various US universities, including Harvard.

No partner is required because wet dreams and masturbation are also part of the equation. The reasons for this haven’t been confirmed but it does discredit the old wives’ tale that masturbation is bad for you.

8. You’ll cure headaches

Yes, you read that right. When your partner complains they have a headache you can tell them about the findings of a team of German neurologists who concluded that sexual activity can lead to “partial or complete relief ” of head pain in certain migraines. They reckon it has something to do with sex triggering endorphins, which are natural painkillers.

9. You’ll boost your libido

Having sex improves the act itself and makes you want it more, experts say. Biologically, a bow-chick-awow-wow session increases a woman’s vaginal lubrication, blood flow and elasticity, which makes sex feel better and as a result she’ll want it more.

Frequent romps also help release more pheromones in your body and it’s these chemicals that increase your appeal to the opposite sex.

10. You’ll improve your fertility

Semen tests have shown this substance is at its best within two days of having sex and that its potency drops off dramatically after 10 days of abstinence. For women, regular lovemaking has been associated with helping to regulate periods and balance hormones, both of which improve your chances of hitting the conception jackpot.

11. You’ll have better bladder control

Urinary incontinence affects about 30% of women at some point in their lives. Having regular orgasms works your pelvic floor muscles, which are the ones that help to stem the flow of urine. These muscles weaken during pregnancy and menopause, and keeping them strong and toned is important. Orgasm or Pilates – the choice is yours!

12. You’ll be happy

An often-quoted Swedish study found that quadrupling the frequency of sex from once a month to once a week boosted happiness as much as having an extra half a million rand in the bank. There are physiological reasons – sex lifts your endorphin levels by putting more dopamine and oxytocin into your brain – as well as psychological reasons.

Recent research by Swiss and Canadian psychologists suggests it’s actually all that touchy-feely stuff after sex that puts a smile on our dial rather than reaching climax. Sex, they say, promotes affection and a stronger and more positive connection with your partner. In other words, erotic quality is at least as important as erotic quantity.

“Sex seems beneficial not only because of its physiological or hedonic effects but because it promotes a stronger and more positive connection with your partner,” explained the lead author of the study, Anik Debrot.

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