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 New
York psychologist and sex therapist. "Of course, sex is everywhere in
the media," she says. "But the idea that we are vital, sexual creatures
is still looked at in some cases with disgust or in other cases a bit of
embarrassment. So to really take a look at how our sexuality adds to
our life and enhances our life and our health, both physical and
psychological, is eye-opening for many people."
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.
Among the benefits of healthy loving in a relationship:
1. Sex Relieves Stress
A big health benefit of sex is lower blood pressure and overall
stress reduction, according to researchers from Scotland who reported
their findings in the journal Biological Psychology. They studied
24 women and 22 men who kept records of their sexual activity. Then the
researchers subjected them to stressful situations -- such as speaking
in public and doing verbal arithmetic -- and noted their blood pressure
response to stress.
Those who had intercourse had better responses to stress than those who engaged in other sexual behaviors 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 Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre,
Pa., took samples of saliva, which contain IgA, from 112 college
students who reported the frequency of sex they had.
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 Los
Angeles sexologist and president of the American Association of
Sexuality Educators and Therapists. It takes work, from both a physical
and psychological perspective, to do it well, she says.