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
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 10 health benefits of sex is backed by scientific scrutiny.
1. Sex Relieves Stress
A big health benefit of sex is lower blood pressure and overall stress reduction, according to researchers from
Those who had intercourse had better responses to stress than those who engaged in other sexual behaviours or abstained.
Another study published in the same journal found that frequent intercourse was associated with lower diastolic blood pressure in cohabiting participants. Yet other research found a link between partner hugs and lower blood pressure in women.
2. 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
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
3. 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. Doubling up, you could drop that pound in 21 hour-long sessions.
"Sex is a great mode of exercise," says Patti Britton, PhD, a
4. 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
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.
5. Sex Boosts Self-Esteem
Boosting self-esteem was one of 237 reasons people have sex, collected by
That finding makes sense to Gina Ogden, PhD, a sex therapist and marriage and family therapist in
6. 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
"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.
7. 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.
In a study published in the Bulletin of Experimental Biology and Medicine, 48 volunteers who inhaled oxytocin vapor and then had their fingers pricked lowered their pain threshold by more than half.
8. 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.
9. 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,
10. 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.
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.