By Dr. Mercola
Many people associate a healthful lifestyle with habits that are not always the most fun… like grueling workouts or skipping dessert. But this is a misconception, as many of the healthiest habits are also among the most rewarding.
Take sex. It counts as moderately intense exercise plus it boosts numerous aspects of both physical and mental health. As long as you're engaging in safe-sex practices, increasing your sexual activity is a surefire strategy to better health!
The Top 11 Health Benefits of Sex
Regular sex cannot be underestimated as a factor for reducing stress, bolstering self-esteem and fostering feelings of intimacy and bonding between partners.
But the real point of this article is the fact that a healthy sex life can provide for a longer, healthier and, most would agree, more enjoyable life. Among the many health benefits of sex are:
1. Improved Immunity
People who have sex frequently (one or two times a week) have significantly higher levels of immunoglobulin A (IgA).1 Your IgA immune system is your body's first line of defense.
Its job is to fight off invading organisms at their entry points, reducing or even eliminating the need for activation of your body's immune system. This may explain why people who have sex frequently also take fewer sick days.2
2. Heart Health
Men who made love regularly (at least twice a week) were 45 percent less likely to develop heart disease than those who did so once a month or less, according to one study.3
Sexual activity not only provides many of the same benefits to your heart as exercise but also keeps levels of estrogen and testosterone in balance, which is important for heart health.
3. Lower Blood Pressure
Sexual activity, and specifically intercourse, is linked to better stress response and lower blood pressure.4
4. It's a Form of Exercise
Sex helps to boost your heart rate, burn calories and strengthen muscles, just like exercise. In fact, research recently revealed that sex burns about 4 calories a minute for men and 3 for women, making it (at times) a 'significant' form of exercise.5 It can even help you to maintain your flexibility and balance.
5. Pain Relief
Sexual activity releases pain-reducing hormones and has been found to help reduce or block back and leg pain, as well as pain from menstrual cramps, arthritis and headaches. One study even found that sexual activity can lead to partial or complete relief of headache in some migraine and cluster-headache patients.6
6. May Help Reduce Risk of Prostate Cancer
Research has shown that men who ejaculate at least 21 times a month (during sex or masturbation) have a lower risk of prostate cancer.7 This link needs to be explored further, however, as there may have been additional factors involved in the association.
7. Improve Sleep
After sex, the relaxation-inducing hormone prolactin is released, which may help you to nod off more quickly. The "love hormone" oxytocin, released during orgasm, also promotes sleep.
8. Stress Relief
Sex triggers your body to release its natural feel-good chemicals, helping to ease stress and boost pleasure, calm and self-esteem. Research also shows that those who have sexual intercourse responded better when subjected to stressful situations like speaking in public.8
9. Boost Your Libido
The more often you have sex, the more likely you are to want to keep doing it. There's a mental connection there but also a physical one, particularly for women. More frequent sex helps to increase vaginal lubrication, blood flow and elasticity,9 which in turn make sexual activity more enjoyable.
10. Improved Bladder Control in Women
Intercourse helps to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles, which contract during orgasm. This can help women to improve their bladder control and avoid incontinence. You can boost this benefit even more by practicing Kegel exercises during sex (a Kegel squeeze is performed by drawing your lower pelvic muscles up and holding them up high and tight, as if you're trying to stop a flow of urine).
11. Increase Intimacy and Improve Your Relationship
Sex and orgasms result in increased levels of the hormone oxytocin -- the "love" hormone -- that helps you feel bonded to your partner, and better experience empathic connections.
Has Sex Fizzled? Check Into the Emotional Connection
Anxiety, defensiveness, fear and failure of communication are destructive psychological forces that can take a heavy toll on your libido, whether you're a man or a woman, by acting as roadblocks to desire. Stress, too, can dampen your libido and make sex the last thing on your mind (a catch-22, since sex will help to reduce your stress levels significantly).
Taking control of your emotions by learning the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) can really help in this area to re-ignite your sex life. EFT is a psychological acupressure technique that can help you effectively address your stress-related thoughts and leave you feeling calmer and more able to face your challenges, whatever they may be, so you're able to focus on more enjoyable pursuits.
Men, Try This Before Reaching for Viagra
Varying degrees of erectile dysfunction (ED) are common in men and can significantly interfere with a healthy sex life. Often, it is simply a manifestation of stress or emotional problems, but it can also be a sign of an underlying health problem like heart disease. It is important that you work on finding out the foundational cause, and also that you resist the urge to simply pop a pill like Viagra as a quick fix. Viagra does carry a risk of potentially serious side effects, including:
Headache Upset stomach Flushing of the face Blue/green color blindness Blurred vision Vision sensitivity to light Sudden decrease or loss of vision in one or both eyes An abnormally long-lasting erection that may cause permanent damage to your penis Sudden loss or decrease in hearing, sometimes with ringing in the ears or dizziness Heart attack, stroke, irregular heartbeat and death have occurred in men taking Viagra
As far as natural alternatives go, there are many options to consider including L-arginine, an amino acid that is the precursor to nitric oxide, a natural compound that helps relax your blood vessels. Nitric oxide signals the smooth muscle cells in your blood vessels to relax, so that your vessels dilate and your blood flows more freely. This helps your arteries to regain their elasticity and stay free of plaque. L-arginine may also lead to increased microcirculation in genital tissues, which results in stronger erections and better sexual responsiveness, via this nitric oxide mechanism.
Scientific studies have shown that L-arginine can be particularly effective when used in combination with another natural agent, pycnogenol, which resulted in significant improvement in sexual function in men with ED, according to a Bulgarian study.10 Similarly, a pilot study published in the journal European Urology found 6 grams of L-arginine combined with 6 mg of yohimbine, a compound found in the herb yohimbe, was successful in treating men with ED.11 Aside from L-arginine, other natural alternatives include:
- Panax ginseng and maca root, which have been used for centuries as libido-boosting tonics
- Choline and vitamin B5. The neurotransmitter that triggers sexual messages in your brain, whether you're male or female, is acetylcholine (ACH). With too little ACH, sexual activity goes down. One way to safely and effectively enhance your ACH levels is to take choline supplements (1,000-3,000 mg) and vitamin B5 (500-1,500 mg).
7 Secrets to a Healthy Sex Life for Both Men and Women
Are you in a committed relationship and finding your sex life leaves much to be desired? Tending to stress and relationship troubles is important, as discussed, but if that's not the issue then it could be that your lifestyle is getting in the way. To boost your libido naturally and help restore harmony to your intimate life, use the strategies that follow.
- Reduce, with the plan of eliminating, grains and sugars in your diet. It is vitally important to eliminate sugars, especially fructose. High levels of sugar in your bloodstream can actually turn off the gene that controls your sex hormones.
- Eat a healthy diet, like the one described in my nutrition plan, which will help to normalize your insulin levels. This simple measure has a profound influence on every area of your health, including your sex life.
- Optimize your vitamin D levels, ideally through appropriate sun exposure as this will allow your body to also create vitamin D sulfate — a factor that may play a crucial role in preventing the formation of arterial plaque that is linked to erectile dysfunction.
- Exercise regularly. Make sure you incorporate high-intensity interval training exercises, which also optimize your human growth hormone (HGH) production.
- Avoid smoking or drinking alcohol excessively.
- Be sure to get plenty of high-quality, restorative sleep.
- Consider choline and vitamin B5 supplements. The neurotransmitter that triggers the sexual message, in both men and women, is acetylcholine (ACH). With too little ACH, sexual activity goes down. One way to safely and effectively enhance ACH levels in your body is to take choline supplements (1,000-3,000 mg) and vitamin B5 (500-1,500 mg).