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Say "Yes" to the Sex

7 reasons why getting busy is great for you.

Mature couple in bed laughing under white sheeted covers against a circular patterned pleated wall.
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A young woman with dark curly hair is using mobile phone. Female is smiling while holding smart phone. She is lying on sofa at home.

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We all know that sex brings couples closer together, but after a long day, it can be pretty tempting to put it off and zone out instead. Love to, but I’m about to reach a new level on Tetris/am on the final chapter where the killer is revealed/have two episodes left on my binge-watching jamboree.

When I was writing the sex chapter of my last book, "How Not To Hate Your Husband After Kids," my husband, Tom, and I tried a slightly kooky, seven-day "Sexperiment" devised by a Texas pastor to bring the married couples in his flock closer together. The plan was simple: Have sex for seven nights in a row. While it was more difficult than we’d imagined to make time for it every night, we made it through a week, and even went beyond to 10 days. (It’s common knowledge among sex experts that the more sex you have, the more you want.)

And sex is not just the secret sauce that strengthens your emotional connection with your partner—it has some surprising and pretty spectacular health benefits as well. Having regular sex is an easy way to stay healthy and balanced. Here are 7 reasons to put down your iPad and go for it.

Sex relieves stress

A roll in the hay releases a surge of stress-reducing, feel-good chemicals, among them oxytocin, the so-called “cuddle hormone” that promotes bonding and feelings of happiness. It also releases dopamine, which activates the brain’s pleasure centers. “Pleasure, essentially, counters the stress response in some ways,” says Carl Charnetski, professor of psychology at Wilkes University.

A 2016 Northwestern study found that sex actually puts us into a delicious trance-like state. Think of it as a natural tranquilizer which can quiet the feedback loop of worry in your head.

What’s even better is that these stress-reducing effects can last. An Arizona State University study of 58 women found that when the women had sex with their partners, they reported much less stress the day after, and better moods. That was certainly the case for me. During that 10-day stretch, I truly had more pep in my step—as did my husband, who seemed to do a lot of jaunty whistling.

It makes your skin look

Aside from the post-coital glow from increased blood circulation, sex is a friend with longer-lasting benefits. Research presented at the British Psychological Society’s annual meeting found that subjects in midlife who had sex at least three times a week looked between four and seven years younger than those who had less. That’s no small number.  

Lead study author David Weeks said that sex releases endorphins and human growth hormone, which can help skin stay elastic, boost circulation, calm inflammation, and enhance sleep. Who needs pricey skin creams? I will say that after our Sexperiment, I was barraged with questions from friends: What’s up? Who’s your derm? Are you using a new serum? Never in my life have I received more compliments on my radiant skin.

It boosts your immune system

Wash your hands, get your flu shot, and … get busy? Yes. In a now-famous experiment, Charnetski found that college students who had sex at least two to three times a week had much higher levels of immunoglobulin A, or IgA, in their saliva. IgA is an antibody that fights off pathogens, or disease-producing entities. “It lines all the semi-permeable mucosal membranes of our body—our eyes, our nose, our mouth, our genital and urinary tract,” Charnetski told me. The higher our level of those pathogen-battling antibodies, the stronger our immune system is.

I didn’t get my blood checked after our Sexperiment, but I did feel like a million bucks.   

“Sex is not just the secret sauce that strengthens your emotional connection with your partner—it has some surprising and pretty spectacular health benefits as well.”

It protects your heart

“Sex is natural, sex is good,” George Michael once sang. “Not everybody does it, but everybody should.” Especially because research shows it’s good for heart health. A 2010 study by the New England Research Institute observed 1,000 men over the course of 17 years, and found that those who had sex at least two times a week were 45 percent less likely to have heart disease than men who had sex once a month or less.

Thankfully, women aren’t left out of the equation, either. A 2016 study found that women who have frequent sex have a much lower risk of hypertension, a precursor to heart disease.

Fun-but-also-slightly-weird fact: In 2010, Brazil’s health minister recommended that the citizens of Brazil, many of whom had high blood pressure, should remedy the problem by having more sex (with protection, he was quick to add).  He was actually on to something: In 2016, researchers at Michigan State University found that women in their later years were less likely to have high blood pressure if they had a satisfying sex life.

I don’t have a blood pressure monitor in my Brooklyn apartment, but after sex, we both felt a palpable sense of calm and well-being. (And we’d always joke, “We should do this more often,” as if we were college friends meeting for coffee.)

Interestingly, not-so-great sex did not produce the same findings. Researchers think it may be that strong relationships that include sex reduce stress and promote psychological well-being—which, in turn, bolsters cardiovascular health.

It’s good for your brain

Sex not only boosts circulation in your body, it increases blood flow to the brain, delivering a burst of glucose that your brain burns as energy. A 2017 British study found that hitting the sheets at least once a week was “highly predictive” of better cognitive functioning.

It may or may not be coincidence that during our 10-day sex jamboree, I was positively killing it on Words With Friends (pro tip: ‘pizazzy’ is a real word, and it will earn you 49 points!)

It may lower his risk of prostate cancer

The most common form of cancer among U.S. men is prostate cancer—and regular sex may help prevent it. Research from the National Cancer Institute found that men who frequently ejaculate—as in 21 times a month or more—were a full third less likely to develop cancer than men who ejaculated between four and seven times a month.

Why? It may be that all the action keeps the prostate gland free of carcinogens, or that it stops something called crystalloid microcalcificationstiny specks of mineral deposits associated with cancer—from developing in the prostate duct.  (This is a compelling reason to have sex, but just FYI: Bringing it up all the time may backfire. After I relayed this statistic to a married couple I know, he would repeat it to her whenever he made a move. Finally, she had to gently but firmly tell him that saying “You wouldn’t want me to get prostate cancer, would you?” was not exactly erotic.)

It can make pain less … painful

Next time you’re feeling a headache coming on, try grabbing your partner instead of an aspirin. Not only is having the “Big O” a pretty fun way to pass the time, but a 2013 study published in the journal Cephalalgia found that orgasms can relieve migraine pain and cluster headaches. Some patients even said they used sex as headache therapy. The reason why is not clear, but it may have something to do with the release of endorphins, the brain’s natural painkillers. I’m usually headache-prone, but I didn’t have one once during that 10 days.

Convinced yet? There’s more than enough solid evidence to put sex at the top of your list—so make like the Nike slogan and Just Do It. Candy Crush can wait! Your brain, heart, and immune system will thank you.

And so will your partner.

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Published February 12th, 2019
A young woman with dark curly hair is using mobile phone. Female is smiling while holding smart phone. She is lying on sofa at home.

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