As if the big “O” wasn’t reason enough to get busy, sex has many other benefits that just might surprise you.
Want to clear your complexion, boost your mood, and cut your risk of cancer, heart disease, and other health hazards? No, the answer isn’t in a magic pill — it’s between your sheets. That’s right — a little lovin’ can boost your overall health in many surprising ways.
“There have been lots of studies describing the health benefits of sex,” says licensed sex therapist and sexuality educator Sandra L. Caron, PhD, professor of family relations and human sexuality at the University of Maine’s College of Education and Human Development in Orono. “Most of them relate to achieving orgasm. Nobody says you have to be with someone to do that.”
That’s an intriguing sex tip for people who do not have a committed partner — self-pleasuring can offer sex benefits, especially those specifically related to having a good orgasm.
So, whether you’re coupled up or flying solo, check out this list of healthy side effects of sex:
- Improved heart health. Just like any physical activity, healthy sex is good for your heart. Several studies have found that your risk of dying from a heart disease event such as stroke or heart attack goes down as the frequency of your good orgasms increase over time. And for those that worry that the exertion involved in sex is a threat to the heart, analyses show that the most sexually intense moments (assuming you aren’t unusually vigorous in your activities) place about the same demand on your heart as walking 4 to 6 miles an hour. Of course, it helps your heart and your sex life overall to stay in shape.
- Sweet pain relief. Just looking at your partner (or even a photo of your partner) can help ease pain. When anesthesiologists showed people taking part in a study photos of their romantic partners or photos of attractive strangers, or asked them to engage in a word game, they found that looking at romantic partners significantly dulled the experience of pain. So even though you might think pain is a barrier to sex, consider this one sex benefit worth the time and effort: take a moment to really look at your lover. Other studies have found that women may get some relief from menstrual cramps through a good orgasm.
- Less stress. Healthy sex offers the same soothing effects of sugary comfort foods when it comes to reducing stress. Researchers theorize that this stress reduction occurs because the pleasure pathways of the brain are triggered by sex (just as they are, for some, by sweet treats) — and it looks like this effect is a little bit more lasting than we often think.
- Cancer prevention. Research has suggested that men may reduce their risk of prostate cancer proportionately to their good orgasms and the stimulation of their testicles. While more research is needed, this would certainly be a welcome sex benefit.
- Better sleep. Although experts are not sure exactly why sex works to improve sleep, there appears to be some evidence that it does. So don’t be too surprised if you and your partner doze off shortly after a satisfying sexcapade — and wake up feeling refreshed!
- Better mood. It’s no wonder you’ve got a more positive outlook post-sex: There are biochemical rationales for experiencing improved mood as a sex benefit, from the neurotransmitters that may be released during healthy sex to the mood enhancers contained in semen itself. “And”, adds Caron, “there’s a lot to be said simply for the mood-boosting effect of having a nice connection with somebody that you trust and care about.”
- Glowing skin. That fabled ‘morning-after’ glow? It’s not just your imagination: You really do look better after having sex. “Sex even helps you look younger,” says Caron. That glow can be attributed to a combination of stress relief, better mood, and the flush of blood under your skin that’s a natural part of the arousal process.
Enjoying a healthy sex life is one of the great joys in life. Knowing intimacy could be a boon for your long-term health as well makes it that much more pleasurable.