Do you really need an excuse to have more sex? Just in case you do, here's a legitimate one for you: An active sex life could lead to better overall health. Since Healthy Women, a nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering women to make smart and healthy choices, recently released a survey that indicates the majority of women are having sex more out of obligation than enjoyment, it means a lot of us are missing out on the health benefits of an active sex life. Here are five reasons why you should sex yourself to a healthier life today:
1. Sex decreases stress. "Sex releases endorphins, which are natural 'feel good' hormones," Dr. Naomi Greenblatt, MD, and medical director at The Rocking Chair in New Jersey, says. For anybody who's ever had sex, that probably won't come as a huge surprise, but it's consistent with multiple studies that suggest the same thing. For example, in 2002, researchers at the State University of New York in Albany studied female students who were having unprotected regular sex as well as women who had protected regular sex, and women who were not regularly engaging in sex, and found that the women who engaged in regular sex exhibited fewer signs of depression than women who did not, with the women having unprotected sex exhibiting the fewest signs of depression. These results, which were published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, are not definitive, but remain consistent with other studies which suggest that the different compounds that make up semen can actually boost your mood.
2. Sex can be a workout. "Sex can be a significant workout," Dr. Greenblatt says. "You can burn anywhere from 85 to 250 calories every time you have sex." Not only do you burn calories, but you work different muscle groups, depending on how many different positions you try.
3. Sex can lead to a younger appearance. "In a study at The Royal Edinburgh Hospital in Scotland, a panel of judges viewed women through a one way mirror and had to guess their age," Dr. Greenblatt says. "Women labeled as “super young” appeared seven to 12 years younger than their actual age. These women also reported having sex as many as four times per week." Maybe it's because sex can increase your level of energy, or because having an orgasm releases oxytocin, the "love" hormone, or because regular sex has been shown to protect your heart—researchers in Ireland found that men who had frequent sex had a 50 percent less chance of cardiovascular mortality, compared to those men who were not having regular sex— but engaging in regular sex can help you look and feel more youthful. Not only that, but according to Dr. Greenblatt, it can boost your body's production of Vitamin D, and estrogen, which helps you to maintain shiny hair and skin.
4. It improves your immune function. "People who have sex also tend to have higher levels of immunoglobulin A, which improves your immune function," Dr. Greenblatt says.
5. Sex is a natural pain reliever. Immediately before you have an orgasm, levels of oxytocin are five times higher than normal, Dr. Greenblatt says, and that can relieve pain, from back pain to arthritis, and yes, even menstrual cramps.
Admittedly, many researchers are quick to stress that sex and health is like the old "chicken and egg" adage—that is they're not sure which came first. It could be that people who live healthier lifestyles tend to be more interested in sex than those who are not as healthy. Still, there's no evidence to suggest that sex is bad for you, so unless you feel that it is negatively impacting your ability to live your daily life, you have nothing to lose by making it a part of your routine.