By Marta Debski
It's late at night, your head sinks down into the pillow and you're drifting off to dreamland...when your partner starts kissing your ear, initiating late-night lovemaking. But before you politely (but forcefully) push your bedmate back to his or her side, remember that having sex has perks aside from just appeasing your partner. From reducing stress to clearing up your complexion, here are 8 surprising health benefits of getting busy.
Getting frisky between the sheets can strengthen your relationship outside the bedroom. In a 2008 University of Zurich study, a group of couples that received a dose of oxytocin (a hormone produced in the brain commonly referred to as the "love hormone") displayed positive behavior, like listening, confirming and laughing, when discussing stressful topics of conflict in their relationships. This positive behavior led to better communication between partners, reducing the amount of stress in the relationship.
Who knew getting it on could expand your life expectancy? According to a University of Bristol four-year study with a 10-year follow up, published in the British Medical Journal in 1997, men between the ages of 45 and 59 who had two or more orgasms a week had a 50 percent lower mortality rate than men who had orgasms less than once a month. While the study does not explain why high orgasms frequency is related to a lower death rate, it does mention that there is a possible dose-dependent relationship, meaning the more sex you have the lower the risk. So, get to work!
Afraid a little lovemaking might stop your ticker? This same University of Bristol study also found, after adjusting for age and other risk factors, that men who had orgasms at least twice a week had a lower risk of fatal coronary events than those men who had sex less than once a month.
When you're having trouble getting shuteye, initiate a little action! Research shows that during orgasm, endorphins are released into the bloodstream which have a sedative effect, making it easier to fall asleep. Also, under typical, stress-free conditions, "oxytocin (released at high levels upon orgasm) may promote sleep," says the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry in Munich, Germany. What better way to kick off a sound night's sleep?
When you're feeling down, getting intimate with your partner might be the last thing on your mind. But getting busy could just be the perfect medicine to lift your spirits. "Being close, both physically and mentally, to another human being increases one's confidence and wellbeing," says Elaine Brown, MD, an Ob/Gyn in Billings, Montana, and an expert on MedHelp's Gynecology and Women's Health forum. "Simply feeling desirable to another person boosts confidence."
Feeling bad about that late night snack? Engage in some erotic exercise. According to Harvard Medical School, sex counts as "mild to moderate in terms of exercise intensity." When you and your partner are having sex, your heart rate and oxygen consumption increase, helping you burn about five calories a minute.
Another benefit? The carnal act can protect against prostate cancer. A 1992 study conducted by the Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics of the National Cancer Institute asked more than 29,000 American men ages 46 to 81 to fill out a questionnaire about their history of ejaculation frequency, asking the men to report the average number of ejaculations they had per month during the ages of 20 to 29 years, 40 to 49 years, and during the prior year (1991). The researchers then sent the men follow-up questionnaires every 2 years until 2000.
The findings, published in JAMA in 2004, found that while most categories of ejaculation frequency were unrelated to the risk of prostate cancer, those men who reported ejaculating 21 or more times a month had a decreased risk of total prostate cancer. So when it comes to protecting your honey from the second most common cancer diagnosis in men, engaging in frequent sex can't hurt, right? Just ask your partner.
When it comes to skin care, forget the facial. "Sex promotes the formation of elastin, which improves the strength integrity and appearance of skin," says Dr. Brown. "It seems sex also improves the skin by stimulating collagen development." When those wrinkles start to appear and you feel a midlife crisis coming on, keep yourself looking (and feeling!) young by getting it on.
While there are many health benefits to engaging in sexual intercourse, about 19 million new sexually transmitted infections occur throughout the United States each year, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women's Health. Almost half of these new infections are transmitted between men and women ages 15 to 24 and can cause serious health problems, including death. Additionally, more than 3 million women in the United States become pregnant by accident every year. Always practice safe sex: use a condom or other means of protection.
Marta Debski is a runner, health enthusiast and proud Wolverine.