Let's state the obvious: Having sex is fun. But what might be less obvious is that it's also good for you — mentally and physically. While it's something of a chicken or egg situation to determine the direction of causality — "Do healthier people tend to have more sex or people who have more sex tend to be healthier?" says Jennifer Bass, head of information services for the Kingsley Institute, there are some studies that link better loving with better living. Read on for the perks for getting busy.
It's Time to Start Sexercising
While sex will never equal a kickboxing class or a session of strength training, the fact that you're getting some sort of a muscular workout is undeniable. The human body has over 600 muscles and during sex, "we're releasing and contracting all the muscles within the body," says Patti Britton, PhD, author of The Art of Sex Coaching and past president of the American Association for Sexuality Educators. Arms, butt, legs, core muscles — they're all getting used. And while some positions have better toning payoffs than others, as long as you're putting some effort into it you'll be burning calories from start to (ahem) finish.
A Happier Mood
Having sex is definitely pleasurable on a physical level, but chemically it has been suggested to elevate mood and reduce depression.
The surmised reason, believe it or not: Exposure to semen. A study done by the State University of New York controlled the length of a relationship, amount of sex, time elapsed since last sexual encounter, and use of oral contraceptives to show that women who never used condoms reported better moods and fewer depressive symptoms or suicidal thoughts than those who used condoms. Why? One theory is that vaginal tissue is very absorptive, and semen contains a host of mood-elevating chemicals, like endorphins, oxytocin, serotonin, and prolactin. For women, sex is literally a jolt to your system, and if you're getting it on regularly you might be on cloud nine for quite a while.
A Stronger Immune System
Orange juice? Check. Flu shot? Check. Sexytime? Check!
A study from Wilkes University in Pennsylvania indicated that people having sex one to two times a week had three times as much Immunoglobulin A (a major antibody) in their systems as those having no sex, infrequent sex (less than once a week), or — a note to your nosy neighbors — very frequent sex (3 times or more a week).
Forget your morning swipe of blush and overly expensive face serums. With increased blood circulation and oxygenation of the blood, a post-coital glow means a temporary brighter complexion. But there are longer-lasting beauty benefits of sex, too. An orgasm triggers a rush of endorphins and growth hormones, like DHEA, that help heal damage caused by the sun, smoking, and cortisol buildup, which is associated with the thinning of the skin. In fact, a Scottish study showed that people who have sex every other day look dramatically younger (up to seven to 12 years!) than their compatriots. If your crow's feet are a growing concern, make sure to get some alone time in with your guy — your face will thank you.
In 2010, Brazil's health minister recommended sex (along with other traditional forms of exercise) as a fix for the nation's high blood pressure problems, and he wasn't completely off the mark. Researchers from Scotland have found that people who were sexually active had lower blood pressure when engaged in stress-inducing tasks, such as public speaking, with those only having sex in the last two weeks charting the lowest number.
"In part, it's the oxygenation of blood and the focusing of the mind away from negative stressors," explains Britton. "Sex has that magical quality of bringing you into the moment, especially at orgasm, which is a period of time that feels like animated suspension, where your mind and body both go off-grid."
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