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The Health Benefits of Sex

By Pala Copeland and Al Link
Urban Male Magazine (UMM), Summer 2000

Lose weight. Reduce stress. Lower your cholesterol level. Improve your circulation. Live longer. Stay younger. Sounds like an ad for a new wonder drug right? In fact it's a partial list of the benefits of humanity's oldest and most pleasurable pastime - sex.

Most of us are aware of the feel-good benefits of sex while we're engaged in it, but do you also know that there are benefits which carry on after the sweaty bodies have dried and the sweet talk has reverted to sports? For instance:

Maintaining Ideal Body Weight

There are 3500 calories in a pound of fat. For every 3500 calories you burn (that you do not replace with food!) you will lose one pound of fat. Sexual intercourse burns approximately 150 calories per half hour. Here's how that stacks up against some other activities that may be part of your fitness regime: yoga 114 calories per half hour, dancing - rock 129, walking - 3mph 153, weight training 153, canoeing - 2mph 153, volleyball 174.

According to one survey reported by the Ottawa Citizen, Canadians on average have sex 7.33 times per month, lasting approximately 24.4 minutes. That means that "Joe Canada" is burning off more than 10 thousand calories a year, or about 3 pounds, in a not particularly active sex life. Those who are more sexually active, into Tantra for instance where lovemaking lasts 4 hours, would burn up 600 calories a session. At once a week that's 31,200 calories or 9 pounds per year. Considering that people put weight on gradually, slowly gaining 5-10 pounds per year until they are overweight, it's not unrealistic to assume that regular sexual activity is one way to help maintain a healthy body weight.

Increased Blood Flow

Sex helps increase the blood flow to your brain and to all other organs of your body. Increased heart rate and deep breathing accounts for the improvement in circulation. As fresh blood supply arrives, your cells, organs and muscles are saturated with fresh oxygen and hormones, and as the used blood is removed, you also remove waste products that cause fatigue and even illness.

Lower Cholesterol

Lowering your cholesterol is another of the "sex as exercise" benefits. Sex helps lower the overall cholesterol level. Perhaps more importantly it tips the HDL/LDL (good/bad) cholesterol balance towards the healthier HDL side.

Stress Reduction, Relaxation and Improved Sleep

People having frequent sex often report that they handle stress better, so the normal stresses of living do not become distress. The profound relaxation that typically follows lovemaking, with orgasm for women and ejaculation and/or orgasm for men, may be one of the few times people actually allow themselves to completely let go, surrender and relax. Many indicate that they sleep more deeply and restfully after satisfying lovemaking. In the relaxing afterglow you may be able to let go of distracting thoughts. Being able to stop thinking has helped many to overcome insomnia.

Sex as Pain Reliever

Through the touch magic of sex the hormone oxytocin is secreted in your body which in turn causes the release of endorphins. Because of these natural opiates sex acts as a powerful analgesic, elevating the pain threshold and helping to relieve the aches of conditions like arthritis, whiplash and headaches. Now there's a novel approach, sex as a remedy for headache rather than an excuse for abstaining!

With arousal and orgasm oxytocin levels rise. They spike 3 to 5 times higher than usual just before orgasm. In fact it is oxytocin that triggers the orgasm. Measurements performed at the Masters and Johnson laboratories have shown that the uterine contractions brought about by orgasm (triggered by oxytocin) are just as powerful as those of child labor. Women can use this extraordinary orgasmic contraction and relaxation of the uterine muscle to relieve cramps during PMS and menstruation.

Live Longer, Stay Younger

A British study of 1,000 men found those who had at least two orgasms a week had half the death rate of their countrymen who indulge less than once a month.

The hormone DHEA promotes sexual excitement and increases in response to it. Dr Theresa Crenshaw author of The Alchemy of Love and Lust says DHEA may be the most powerful chemical in our personal world. It helps balance the immune system, improves cognition, promotes bone growth, and maintains and repairs tissues, keeping your skin healthy and supple. It may also contribute to cardiovascular health and even function as antidepressant.

Prostate and Genital Health

Some doctors believe that more than 75% of men over 50 have a somewhat enlarged prostate, and that virtually all men will suffer from prostate enlargement if they live long enough. This condition, called benign prostate hypertrophy (BPH), is normal and usually not dangerous. Unfortunately, some of these men develop prostate cancer, one of the leading causes of death in older men. Regular sexual intercourse with frequent ejaculations will help to keep the prostate healthy.

For those men who practice delaying ejaculation, for example in the practice of Tantra Sacred Sex, performing Kegel exercises (in which you contract the muscles around your genitals), will tone these muscles, just as exercising other muscles tones other areas of your body. More importantly, these exercises will help keep the prostate healthy, by moving the sexual energy up out of the prostate and circulating it throughout your body. The technique is very simple and you can perform hundreds of contractions per day for top sexual/physical fitness for both men and women. Imagine you are urinating, but want to stop the flow of urine, that's all there is to it.

Contracting your muscles in this way is one of the healthiest exercises you could add to your exercise regime. When 178 Belgian men with minor erection problems participated in a 4-month daily rehabilitation program which primarily focused on Kegel exercises, 74 percent showed improvement and 43 percent were cured. For women, Kegels strengthen the entire urogenital tract, aiding greatly in childbirth and preventing the onset of incontinence in later life. They also sensitize the genital tissues, helping women to become orgasmic and/or increase the intensity of their orgasms

Boost Testosterone and Estrogen

Regular sexual activity boosts testosterone and estrogen levels in both men and women. Besides boosting your libido testosterone fortifies bones and muscles. Some physicians suggest that testosterone keeps hearts healthy and good cholesterol high. Testosterone is what makes the sex drive in men and women more aggressive. It makes you want to have sex, pursue sex, initiate sex and perhaps dominate the lovemaking. Testosterone seems to motivate both men and women to strongly desire specific genital sex and release by orgasm. Because men have so much testosterone, they seem obsessed with genitals, intercourse and ejaculation, but appear to care less for romance and foreplay-touching, hugging, cuddling, eye gazing, etc.

Sex increases women's estrogen levels keeping vaginal tissues more supple and also protecting against heart disease. It is estrogen that makes a woman sexually receptive and responsive to a man's approach. It is estrogen that makes her want to be touched and feel romantic, it is testosterone that makes her want to be penetrated. Estrogen makes a woman soft-breasts develop in response to estrogen. Estrogen is a powerful influence on how a woman smells. It influences the degree to which she projects softness, openness, and interest in sexual touching.

Men's bodies also produce estrogen. In fact testosterone can be converted into estrogen in the man's body. Some estrogen helps a man to develop the softer, more nurturing feminine sides of their personalities. As men age, the testosterone/estrogen balance begins to shift, with testosterone decreasing and estrogen increasing, and this is one reason why so many men seem to mellow out as they get older.

The Healing Power of Intimacy

Sex is good for you, but sex with love is even better. According to Dr. Dean Ornish author of 'Love and Survival: the Scientific Basis for the Healing Power of Intimacy', "an open heart can lead to the most joyful and ecstatic sex". His researches into intimacy and its effects on health have shown that "anything that promotes feelings of love and intimacy is healing". If you have someone who really cares for you and for whom you care in return, someone you are intimately connected with in all ways - emotional, physical and more -- then you may be three to five times less likely at risk of premature death and disease from all causes.

Part of this has to do with the positive effects of touch, what Dr. Crenshaw refers to as Vitamin T. The chemical composition of your body is changed by touch. Caressing, hugging, stroking, cuddling send a chain reaction of chemicals to signal your brain that this is pleasurable, nurturing, good.

There is strong scientific evidence demonstrating the importance of touch to good health. In the 1930s, Dr. Rene Spitz, attending physician at a number of nurseries, noticed that the illness and mortality rates were quite a bit higher in some of the nurseries. His observations and experiments led to the finding that the children who were becoming ill and dying had nothing to do with hygiene or nutrition, but rather had to do with the amount of touching the infants received from the attending staff. He confirmed his findings by hiring "grandmothers" to come into the nurseries to hold, fondle, and cuddle the children. The illness and mortality rates declined rapidly.

Researchers at Miami's Touch Research Institute (TRI) found that premature infants who received three massages a day over 10 days gained 47 percent more weight than preemies who weren't massaged. David Sebringsil, who writes regularly for The Society For Human Sexuality (one of the best online sources of excellent, sex-positive information), recommends Erotic Massage become a part of or alternative to regular lovemaking. It is one of the best ways to help someone achieve extended, multiple, or "whole body" orgasmic states. Through erotic massage partners learn to give and receive loving touch and extraordinary pleasure. It makes you healthier and happier.

Healthy blood, healthy bones, healthy heart, healthy body and a peaceful mind - all thanks to the healing powers of sex. Next time you're in the mood let her know you've got the doctor on your side!

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