10 Surprising Health Benefits of Sex

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
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

"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.

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
England. In a study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community
, scientists found frequency of sex was not associated with stroke in
the 914 men they followed for 20 years.

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
University of Texas researchers and published in the Archives of Sexual

That finding makes sense to Gina Ogden, PhD, a sex therapist and marriage and family therapist in Cambridge, Mass.,
although she finds that those who already have self-esteem say they sometimes
have sex to feel even better. "One of the reasons people say they have sex
is to feel good about themselves," she tells WebMD. "Great sex begins
with self-esteem, and it raises it. If the sex is loving, connected, and what
you want, it raises it."

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 University of Pittsburgh and the University of North Carolina evaluated 59
premenopausal women before and after warm contact with their husbands and
partners ending with hugs. Tey found that the more contact, the higher the
oxytocin levels.

"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

In a study published in the Bulletin of Experimental Biology and
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
, 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 Kegels 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, then release.

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.

By Kathleen Doheny
Reviewed by Louise Chang
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