10 Reasons Having Sex Is Good for Your Health

couple in bed, sex is good for your healthWhen was the last time you had a really good roll in the hay? A week ago? A month?

If it’s been longer than a few days, it’s time to make a date in the bedroom. According to recent research, regular sex is the key to staying healthy and happy and may even help you live longer.

Move over, aspirin! The newest wonder drug is between the sheets. Here are 10 reasons sex is good for you.

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More from The Stir: 7 Ways Having Sex With Yourself Is Good for Your Health

1. Finish The New York Times Sunday crossword.Well, the Times crossword may be a stretch, but research shows that sex may help your brain function more effectively and may even boost your memory. A 2010 study by Princeton researchers found that sex increases brain growth in rats and helps form new brain connections. "There are also studies that show that people who have regular sex are less likely to develop Alzheimer’s," says Dr. Sandor Gardos, founder of MyPleasure.com. Why? It’s not clear, but Gardos says it may in part be due to the fact that sex improves the blood oxygen supply to the brain, helping it work better, which in turn might help you correctly answer 39 Down.

2. Reduce stress. We know, sex is probably the last thing on your mind when your to-do list is a mile long, but turning to your man could be as effective as chomping down a cheeseburger and fries when you’re frazzled (and kinder to your waistline). A University of Cincinnati study found that pleasurable activities -- like eating comfort food and having sex -- diminish the response of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA), the area of the brain that controls stress, and continues to inhibit that region of your noggin for up to three weeks. "It’s a catch-22," says Dr. Sharon Moalem, author of How Sex Works. "When we’re anxious, we’re evolutionarily-wired to not be thinking about sex, but if you do, it can relieve your stress instantly."

3. Feel better about your body. Lamenting your muffin top? Fixated on your flabby thighs? The last thing you might want to do is get naked, but Dr. Cindy Meston, author of Why Women Have Sex, says having sex can actually boost body image in some women. "For some women, it makes them feel powerful, or it can confirm your value and worth with a partner," says Tierney Lorenz, MA, from the Sexual Psychophysiology Lab at the University of Texas at Austin. "For others, it just simply feels good, and can improve your outlook in general. It's hard to be grumpy at the world -- yourself included -- when your socks have just been knocked off."

4. Communicate better with your beau. Forget couples’ therapy. Getting your man to open up could be as easy as opening your ... well, you know. Having an orgasm floods the body with oxytocin (also known as the bonding hormone), and a 2010 study by British and German researchers in the Journal of Neuroscience found that an influx of oxytocin makes men more sensitive. "Women need intimacy in order to feel sexual. Men need sex in order to be intimate," says Dr. Barbara Bartlik, a sex and relationship therapist in New York City. "That release of oxytocin helps men express their passion, increase intimacy and talk about how they feel." If they can stay awake, that is.

5. Get rid of a headache. "During sex, your brain is flooded with hormones and neurotransmitters like oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin," says Dr. Bartlik. "It’s kind of like getting a mini-shock therapy." And all those chemicals cause a surge of endorphins, which are the body’s natural painkillers. So instead of turning down sex when you have a headache, you should turn to it for relief (unless it’s seriously debilitating). And if you’re in love with your partner? Even better. A 2010 study by the Stanford University School of Medicine found that intense passionate feelings of love provide effective pain relief similar to that of painkillers.

6. Burn off dessert. Having sex for 30 minutes can burn about 100 calories -- about the same amount as you would burn running a mile, says Sari Locker, PhD, author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Amazing Sex. But keep in mind that in order to get the calorie-burn, you’ve got to put in the work. "Just lying there isn’t going to do much for you cardiovascularly," says Dr. Meston. You don’t have to swing from the chandeliers, she says, but try being on top and switching up positions to get more of a workout.

7. Ward off a cold. Things that prevent the sniffles: Vitamin C, regular hand washing ... and sex twice a week? A study from the University of Wilkes found that people who had sex between once and twice a week compared to those who had sex less frequently or not at all had a 30 percent increase in immuno-globulin A, the most prevalent antibody in humans, and the first line of defense in the prevention of disease in general. Dr. Carl Charnetski, lead author of the study, says it might have something to do with the release of opiate peptides (short sequences of amino acids that have immune-enhancing properties) during orgasm. "They can boost the immune system in moderation," he says.

8. Live longer. There’s a catch here -- it has to be good sex. For men, having a lot of sex each year can help them live longer. But for women, it’s the quality of sex, says Dr. Michael Roizen, author of RealAge: Are You as Young as You Can Be? In a survey, he found that women between the ages of 50 and 60 who report having an above-average sex life have a real age of about 8 years younger, which means if you’re 55 years old, the age of your body, health-wise, is only 47. "Having a younger real age means you’ll have a longer life expectancy and are less prone to disability as you get older," says Dr. Roizen.

9. Get more beauty sleep. Instead of popping an Ambien when you can’t sleep, turn to that man snoring next to you. "During sexual stimulation and orgasm, a number of chemicals are released, including prolactin and vasopressin, both of which make your feel more relaxed and let you drift off more easily," says Dr. Gardos. "It’s one of the best sleep aids out there!"

10. Get busy more often! It’s a sexy self-perpetuating cycle: Doing it increases your levels of testosterone, which is one of the primary drivers of desire, says Dr. Gardos. "Also, in women at least, there is increasing research that desire and arousal are less of a linear thing, and more like a 'fly wheel.' Basically, as long as you keep putting a bit of energy into the fly wheel, it keeps spinning," he says. But once it stops, it takes more to get it going again. Kind of gives new meaning to the phrase "use it or lose it," huh?

This post was written by Colleen Oakley, an Atlanta-based writer whose articles, essays, and interviews have been featured in The New York Times, Ladies’ Home Journal, Marie Claire, Women’s Health, Redbook, Parade, and Martha Stewart Weddings. Her first novel is being published January 6, 2015 (Simon & Schuster/Gallery). For more info, visit www.colleenoakley.com.

What other ways have you noticed that sex is good for your health?


Image © iStock.com/Yuri

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