En español | In the song "Sexual Healing," singer Marvin Gaye touts the emotional benefits of lovemaking. But did you know that, in most cases, sex is good for your physical health, too? Here's what the research shows:
See also: Brand new sex with the same old spouse.
1. Sex may boost your immune system. Regular moderate exercise boosts immune function, which helps prevent all manner of illness. At Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., researchers surveyed 112 subjects about their sexual frequency. They then analyzed their saliva for infection-fighting immunoglobulin A (IgA). Compared with the other groups, those who had sex once or twice a week showed significantly higher IgA levels. "Moderately frequent sex enhances immune function, and may help prevent illnesses such as the common cold," lead researcher Carl Charnetski says.
Photo by: Tim Pannell/Corbis
2. It burns calories. Sex is moderate exercise. It burns about 150 calories an hour.
3. It lowers blood pressure. European researchers asked 51 healthy men and women ages 20 to 47 about their sexual frequency and then measured their blood pressure. As frequency increased, blood pressure decreased.
4. It may lessen the risk of heart attacks. Many men worry that having sex might trigger a heart attack. Yes, it might, according to a recent Tufts study, but the risk is tiny and affects only those who rarely exercise. For those who are physically active, sex reduces the risk of a heart attack. Following 914 Welsh men for up to 20 years, British researchers found that as sexual frequency increased, heart attack risk decreased: "Middle-aged men should be heartened to know that frequent sexual intercourse offers some protection from heart attack."
5. It might ward off prostate cancer. For eight years, National Cancer Institute researchers tracked orgasms and risk of prostate cancer in 29,342 men, ages 46 to 81. As orgasms frequency increased, especially during the men's twenties, prostate cancer risk later in life decreased. Compared with men who reported seven ejaculations a month during their twenties, those who reported 21 or more were 33 percent less likely to develop prostate cancer decades later.
6. It helps you relax. Good sex is based on whole-body massage, which is deeply relaxing and reduces stress. Deep relaxation also helps treat an enormous number of ailments, among them: pain, asthma, high blood pressure, heart disease, depression and arthritis. "Regular sex with a loving partner offers similar benefits," says sex therapist Marty Klein of Palo Alto, Calif.
7. It takes your mind off pain. Sex reduces pain in two ways. First, it's an enjoyable distraction. During sex, people focus less on aches and pains — and as a result, suffer less. In addition, sex releases endorphins, the body's own pain-relieving compounds. Dr. James McKoy, a rheumatologist in Honolulu, recommends regular lovemaking to help control arthritis pain.
8. It may prolong your life. Immune enhancement, deep relaxation, lower blood pressure, and less risk of prostate cancer and heart attack are all associated with longer life. Could regular sex extend life? Yes, according to British scientists at the University of Bristol, who studied 900 middle-aged men. Compared with those who had sex once a month or less, those who reported it twice a week had half the death rate.
But does sex increase longevity? Or is sex merely a marker for better overall health, which enhances longevity? The researchers contend that sex is a key element. Comparing men with low, medium and high sexual frequency, the researchers found no significant differences in age, smoking, weight, blood pressure or heart disease, all of which have major impact on health and longevity. The only real difference was the men's sexual frequency.
The researchers' conclusion: Sex helps prevent death in middle-aged men.
Of course, no one makes love simply because it enhances health. But the health benefits can make sex feel more fulfilling. And if you enjoy music while making love, play "Sexual Healing." It's a catchy tune — and it's true.
Michael Castleman answers sex questions for free at GreatSexAfter40.com.
Also of interest: Men's secret sex problem. »