Sex is not only pleasurable and good for strengthening your relationship. While the emotional health benefits of frequent sex should certainly not be discounted, it’s also very good for your physical health—especially if you’re a man.
Exploring the Cardiovascular Benefits of Sex for Men
A study, published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, found that for men, having sex a few times a week can provide better circulation and blood vessel health. This study was conducted at the National Defence Medical Centre in Taiwan and used data from more than 2,000 participants.
Researchers believe the cardiovascular benefits of sex for men are due to the fact that sexual activity helps reduce levels of a chemical in the blood called homocysteine. Homocysteine is harmful in excessive amounts, and elevated levels can be seen in those who eat poor diets. Researchers from Boston University have previously discovered that elevated homocysteine increases your risk of stroke by almost one-third. Additionally, a 2015 major review of scientific data discovered that too-high homocysteine in your blood increases your chance of dying from heart disease by 66 percent. Excess amounts of this chemical are also linked to cancer and Alzheimer’s risk.
The Taiwanese study does not definitively prove a cause-and-effect relationship between frequent sex and low homocysteine levels, but further research may give more concrete evidence. Surprisingly, the effects on heart health were only seen in the study’s male volunteers, perhaps because the female sexual function is less dependent on proper blood flow than male sexual function.
How to Protect Your Heart
Of course, a healthy sex life alone is probably not enough to cancel out the negative effects of an unhealthy lifestyle, so don’t rely on sexual activity alone to decrease your cardiovascular risk. To protect your heart and blood vessel health, follow these science-backed heart health recommendations:
- Do not smoke.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Get at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise every week. This is necessary for optimal health even if you are of a healthy body weight.
- Do not consume trans fats.
- Increase your consumption of polyunsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids. You can take supplements, or simply eat more fatty fish, seafood, walnuts, flax, chia seeds and chickpeas.
- Eat whole grains instead of refined grains. A high-fiber diet is great for your heart.
- Avoid added sugars in food and drinks.
Other Positive Health Effects of Sex
Sexual activity has other physical health benefits beyond what it does for your cardiovascular system. For example, it is a natural pain reliever due to the endorphins released during orgasm. Some people find that an orgasm can even cure a migraine. Sex also helps you sleep, due to various relaxing hormones that are released during the act.
A study from the University of the West of Scotland found that people who have at least a moderate amount of sex (i.e. at least twice a month) are better able to navigate through stressful situations. Endorphins and oxytocin released into the brain during sex relax the mind and nervous system, reducing stress.
A healthy sex life over the course of your adulthood produces more potent anti-aging benefits than any skincare product, as shown by a study conducted at Scotland’s Royal Edinburgh Hospital. Participants were meant to guess other participants’ ages, and those who had sex around four times a week were perceived to be 7 to 12 years younger than they really were. The researchers say that this is because sexual activity stimulates the production of sex hormones testosterone and estrogen, which can help keep you young and healthy-looking.
Female-Specific Benefits of Sex
Though the cardiovascular benefits of sex don’t apply to women, women receive their own special benefits. For example, if you are having an unpleasant menstrual period, an orgasm can help you out. Sexual climax causes uterine contractions, which helps to flush out compounds that stimulate period cramps. This means sex (or at least masturbation, if you don’t like to have sex on your period) can make your period less painful. The uterine contractions also help to expel blood and tissue, which can help shorten your period.
In addition to having good sex, if you want another natural way to alleviate your period discomfort, try yoga. A systematic review, published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that women who practice regular yoga benefit from less severe period cramps, as well as less severe PMS symptoms.
Aromatherapy using essential oils can also help make your periods more bearable. One Egyptian study found that massaging the abdomen once daily for the week leading up to the menstrual period, using a mixture of cinnamon, clove, rose, and lavender oils improved women’s periods in a number of ways. The essential oils reduced pain from cramps, duration of cramps, and duration of bleeding, compared to the placebo control group.