Sexual Health: 10 Feel-Better Reasons to Just Do It

10SEX.jpgHealth experts promote seven servings of fruit and vegetables and 30 minutes of exercise daily to maintain good health. What about sex or masturbation twice a week? “Beyond intimacy, sex is a crucial part of your physical, emotional and psychological health and vitality, regardless of gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability, and whether you are single or with a partner,” says Rebecca Rosenblat, relationship and sexuality therapist, author and host of [email protected] (www.DrDate.com). An orgasm is a major neurological and physiological event that has far-reaching health benefits. So get turned on. Good sex may help us all live
longer, healthier lives.

1.  IMMUNE SYSTEM BOOSTER
Every time you reach orgasm, it strengthens your body’s defence systems, helping fight illnesses like colds and stomach bugs as well as diseases in general. Sex once or twice a week has been linked to 30 per cent higher levels of the biochemicals immunoglobulin A (IgA) and endorphins, which stimulate the immune system, according to scientists at Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. IgA are proteins that act as antibodies that bind to pathogens entering the body; they signal the immune system to destroy them.

2.  PAIN RELIEVER “‘Not tonight, I have a headache’ is counterproductive,” says Rosenblat. “During sex, the hormone oxytocin surges to five times its normal level. Because of this, endorphins [chemicals that bear a functional resemblance to morphine] are released that alleviate pain.” 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 by more than half.

3.  HEATS UP HORMONES Regular sexual activity boosts testosterone and estrogen levels. Testosterone fuels the sex drive in both sexes. Besides boosting your libido, testosterone fortifies bones and muscles. It also keeps your heart in good working condition and good cholesterol levels high. For women, sex increases estrogen levels, which protects against heart disease, Alzheimer’s and osteoporosis.

4. MAINTAINS YOUR LOOKS Certain parts of the body contain cells that are more receptive to the effects of estrogen than others, including the face. Estrogens benefit the skin by maintaining its natural glow, increasing its elasticity and plumping it up with collagen. Shiny hair is another by-product of increased levels of estrogen.

5. SLEEP ENHANCER The endorphins released during orgasm not only relieve tension but research has shown that sex also helps the body to engage in deeper, more restful sleep. Deep, restful sleep helps you handle day-to-day stress much more efficiently and, according to research, also maintain a healthy weight.

6. ANXIETY AND DEPRESSION BUSTER “During orgasm, the bloodstream is flooded with oxytocin, also a bonding hormone, which helps us mellow out, trust and turn off fear, anxiety and stress, along with having an amnesic effect that lasts up to five hours, keeping our worries at bay,” says Rosenblat. “Sex is 10 times more effective than Valium and has no side effects. Prostaglandin, a hormone found in semen, modulates female hormones and acts as a natural anti-depressant.”

7. CANCER RISK REDUCER Ejaculation is believed by some researchers to reduce prostrate cancer risks by as much as 30 per cent. A National Cancer Institute survey of 30,000 middle-aged men found that those who averaged 21 ejaculations a month showed a 33 per cent lower risk of prostate cancer than those with four to seven ejaculations.

8.  CARDIOVASCULAR HEALTH ENHANCER Sexual activity gets the blood pumping and the heart beating, which strengthens the cardiovascular system. It is also known to help lower blood pressure. Studies show that even as you age, having sex two or more times a week can lower your risk of heart attack and stroke. Also, the increased heart rate and deep breathing during sex increases blood circulation, beneficial especially for the brain. As supplies of fresh blood arrive, cells and organs are bathed with oxygen and hormones, and waste products that cause fatigue and even illness are removed.

9. INCONTINENCE STOPPER “Regular sex strengthens the pelvic muscles and helps with bladder control, critical in aging individuals,” says Rosenblat. 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. PLEASURE ENHANCER When you share a positive experience with your partner, Rosenblat says your brain comes to associate them with pleasure instead of the things that bug you about them. Small wonder, she adds, increasing your sexual frequency from once a month to once a week registers as the happiness equivalent of a $50K increase in salary.

–Charmaine Gooden