Thursday, 25 April 2013

Why sex is good for your health

Nothing as much fun as sex can be good for you, surely? In fact, though it's probably the last thing on your mind when you're doing it, intercourse offers a whole range of overlooked health benefits.




As well as satisfying your desires (when done properly) sex can do wonders for both your physical and psychological wellbeing. So next time he tells you he's not in the mood, point him towards the following list of reasons why a session between the sheets is the perfect pick-me-up.


It burns calories

Exercise should be fun, and what could be more fun than a good old roll in the hay? It may not burn as many calories as an hour on the treadmill or 50 lengths in the pool, but - when done vigorously enough - sex still gives you a worthwhile cardio workout. It may sound hard to believe (or maybe not, depending on your level of experience), but sex can burn off up to 150 calories every half hour. So if you are having sex four times a week for around 30 minutes, that's an extra 600 calories you're better off without. If you go at it for longer than this - even better!


It's a natural painkiller

'Not tonight darling, I've got a headache.' How many times have we heard this old cliche (in books, on film and, unfortunately, in real life)? Well, time to put this particular excuse, quite literally, to bed. Studies show that reaching orgasm is a natural, powerful painkiller. As you approach and then achieve The Big O, production of a chemical called oxytocin surges within your body. Oxytocin is known to reduce all sorts of general pain, including, of course, headaches.


It can relieve stress

The fact that having sex regularly makes people calm, relaxed and less prone to stress won't come as a revelation to many. This indicates that a person is in a happy, loving relationship and has many reasons to be cheerful. But the role of intercourse as a powerful stress-reliever is also backed up by recent research. One study carried out in Scotland found that participants who were more sexually active were far better at dealing with controlled, stressful situations than those who abstained.


It helps you sleep

Sleep deprivation can have a devastating impact on our wellbeing, with sufferers at an increased risk of conditions ranging from stress and depression to poor performance at work and disruption to family life. To combat insomnia, experts recommend, among other things, cutting out alcohol and caffeine, watching less TV and taking a bath before bed. Now it's time to add sex to that list. We know that it makes men fall asleep (almost instantly), but research also suggests that the oxytocin we mentioned earlier that is released during intercourse acts as a sedative for all of us. Also - and this isn't rocket science - rigorous sex simply wears us out.


It can boost your immune system

Sex isn't just good, it is also good for you. According to scientists, having sex at least once or twice a week increases production of an antibody called immunoglobulin A, or IgA, which protects the body from infections like the common cold and flu. And while hitting the sack with your partner can leave you feeling a bit dishevelled, it can actually improve the way you look by boosting levels of oestrogen, which is known to add strength and texture to hair and skin.


It can protect your heart

The very thought of sex with someone you are attracted to or in love with is enough to send your heart rate through the roof, so imagine the benefits on offer to your ticker when you are actually in a healthy sexual relationship. A study carried out at Queen's University in Belfast found that sex three times a week is enough to halve the risk of heart attack or stroke. In women, sex increases production of oestrogen, which is known to protect us from heart disease. And there is good news for your man too - another study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health claims that sex two or more times a week reduces the risk of fatal heart attack, again by 50%, when compared with those men who do it less than once a month.


It improves your confidence

Have you ever been more aware of your body than when in a happy, healthy, physical relationship? There is no greater incentive to stay in shape than spending a lot of time naked in the presence of someone who makes you go all weak at the knees, and this constant awareness of your body image has obvious benefits. You're more likely to exercise, eat well and adopt a strict beauty regime, such as looking after your hair (on various parts of your body), skin and nails. And if you look better, you feel better, thus giving your confidence a considerable boost.


It keeps you young

Sex doesn't just make you feel younger - research shows it can actually hold back the ageing process. When you reach orgasm, the body secretes DHEA, a hormone which is known to improve the health of the immune system, boost cognitive function, aid tissue repair and keep skin looking and feeling healthy. DHEA also encourages the production of other hormones like oestrogen, which as we know can prolong life by improving cardiovascular health. And, as we have already seen, sex is a form of exercise - something we should all be doing regularly to stay looking and feeling younger.


It strengthens your pelvic floor

Kegel exercises, named after Dr Arnold Kegel, involve the contraction and then relaxation of muscles that make up part of the pelvic floor. Experts recommend that all women practise these daily to prepare them for the stresses of the later stages of pregnancy and to treat stress urinary incontinence. To put it more bluntly - they stop you from having a little accident. However, the problem with pelvic floor exercises is that, in order for them to be effective, you need to keep doing them every day for the rest of your life and it can take months before you notice any difference. Fortunately, there is another way to strengthen and tone this part of your core. You won't realise it, but you are actually performing Kegels while having sex, and the stronger they are the higher your pleasure levels


It can fight depression

There is more to this theory than the fact that satisfying sex can put a great big smile on your face. A 2002 study of almost 300 women by an American psychologist found that sexually active participants who were not using condoms as their contraceptive were less likely to suffer from depression than those who did. The experts involved believe that the hormone prostaglandin, which is only found in semen, may be absorbed into the female body, where it helps to regulate her hormones and thus reduce the risk of mental illness.

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