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What are the health benefits of sex?

Sex, especially in a loving, secure relationship (no fear, no anxiety, no "is he going to call me?" stuff going on!) is a bonus for our health and beauty. In addition to all the stress-reducing hormones that get released, giving us feelings of pleasure, elation, and no pain, regular sex is regular exercise and has similar benefits, including improved cholesterol levels and increased circulation. It also has been shown to boost immunity and reduce one’s risk for heart disease.

One British researcher, Dr. David Weeks, a clinical neuropsychologist at Scotland’s Royal Edinburgh Hospital, conducted a large-scale, long-term study and found that sex helps you look between four and seven years younger. Dr. Weeks attributes this to significant reductions in stress, greater contentment, and better sleep. What’s more, he believes (and so do I) that an active sex life actually slows the aging process. The health-boosting benefits are not surprising when you think about what happens when you’re in the act: Within a half hour your heart races, your breath gets deeper, and blood flow to your brain and other organs -- skin included -- increases.

The icing on the cake is that you can burn about as many calories having sex as you would doing weight training or walking at three miles per hour. Sex might even be as good as a sleeping pill: The relaxing chemicals released around the time of orgasm stick around for five minutes to an hour afterward, depending on the chemical, and that may explain why people too stressed out to go to sleep drift off more easily after sex.

The research has gotten wild in some regards. Researchers have found that mood-altering hormones in semen pass through the walls of the vagina and, within a few hours, are circulating in your bloodstream. Even if you’re not in a long-term monogamous relationship that allows you to have condomless sex, you can still benefit from being intimate with your partner or even yourself due to all the other mood-enhancing effects that accompany sex. As long as you keep it safe (self-pleasuring definitely counts here), sex is great for health in general.

From The Mind-Beauty Connection: 9 Days to Less Stress, Gorgeous Skin, and a Whole New You by Amy Wechsler.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.