You exercise, brush your teeth and get enough sleep. You try to eat right, you take your vitamins and you manage your stress. Your health is a priority to you and you are doing all you can to keep on top of it. But have you considered having more sex?
Read on for five good reasons to schedule some time between the sheets today!
The Physiology of Sex
There are actually four stages of sexual excitement for women. The first stage is the sexual excitement stage. During this stage the body responds to the anticipation of sexual activity by increasing heart rate, blood pressure and respiration. This is the stage where you get that healthy glow, which is a result of the increased blood flow beneath the skin. All of that extra pumping blood increases the oxygen supply to your skin, which can make it look and feel brighter and softer. Increased circulation also helps flush out toxins from the body – and the skin is often were we see the visual evidence of internal toxins – such as acne or dullness. Improved blood flow, hormone regulation and oxygenation can even help plump up your lips! The better to kiss with, my dear!
The second stage is called the sexual arousal stage. In this stage the heightened blood flow continues, increases even, and muscle tension begins. This kind of muscle tension – where muscles are worked against themselves to create tension – is called ‘dynamic tension’ and repeated practice can contribute to better overall muscular health, tone and strength. As the old saying goes, ‘use it or lose it!’
The third stage of sexual arousal in women is orgasm. This phase is the shortest, lasting only a few seconds to a minute or so. During this stage there is a powerful release of sexual tension, allowing muscles to relax completely. A rush of hormones floods the body as the uterus contracts and respirations reach their peak allowing for rapid oxygenation. This is where the good stuff happens! And many experts agree that the benefits of this stage are even available to women who experience orgasm without a partner.
The last stage is called resolution. During this stage all of the increased body system activities (respirations, heart rate and muscle tension) begins to return to baseline. The flood of hormones and oxygen is still present contributing to a general feeling of well-being, increased intimacy and often drowsiness or mild fatigue. Some women will be ready very quickly to begin the whole endeavor from the beginning at this point!
More Sex = Better Health
Aside from the physical activity component of sex – and that is no small thing! –making time for weekly sex can contribute to an improved quality of life across the bed – er, board!
- Improved mood – People who have sex weekly are happier. This is according to a study of 30,000 Americans by researchers at the University of Toronto-Mississauga. The study’s lead researcher lead researcher Amy Muise says “Our findings suggest that it’s important to maintain an intimate connection with your partner, but you don’t need to have sex everyday as long as you’re maintaining that connection.” It is easy to believe that couples who have sex daily are better connected and happier than those who have sex less frequently – but the science doesn’t support that idea . Many busy women will be glad to know that it is the connection – and its consistency, more than its frequency – that most contributes to a sense of happiness with their partner.
But even if you can’t find time to be intimate every week – every little bit counts! Sexual intercourse floods the brain with a happy hormonal cocktail – oxytocin (great for bonding), dopamine (bring on the good feelings) and serotonin (stress? What stress?). All of these combine to leave you feeling fine no matter how often you make it happen.
- Better cognition – A 2010 study found evidence that sexual activity stimulates cell growth in the hippocampus, a region of the brain that plays a big part in long term memory. This increase in neurons, or neurogenesis, can lead to clearer thinking and improved cognitive function.
Researchers at Rutgers University have been studying the female orgasm for more than 25 years. They used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to look at the female brain during orgasm and found that more than 30 areas of the brain were activated! Those activated areas are receiving increased blood flow and that blood is carrying nutrients and oxygen. Sex is brain food!
- Pain relief – Far from using a headache as an excuse to skip sex, researchers at the University of Munster, Germany have concluded that sex can provide relief to migraine and cluster headache sufferers. Next time you feel a headache coming on, skip the ibuprofen and reach for your sweetie instead.
- Better Skin – Another hormonal byproduct of sexual intercourse is dehydroepiandrosterone, or DHEA. DHEA is produced by the adrenal glands as part of the stress response, and sex falls under the good stress category! DHEA plays a part in many aspects of health including better skin, hair, weight control and adrenal health. DHEA supplement use rose after studies suggested that DHEA could contribute to a higher sex drive – but experts caution that it is easily possible – and potentially dangerous – to have too much DHEA. Thankfully, sex is a natural way to increase production of the hormone and experience its many health benefits!
Sex can also contribute to increased collagen – the basis of connective tissue that is the hallmark of younger-looking skin. Collagen production is amplified through physical exercise, specifically increased heartrate and blood pressure and improved respirations. All of these are benefits of sexual intercourse. Sounds like more wrinkles in the sheets could mean less wrinkles on your face!
- Less stress & anxiety – The benefits of sex on stress and anxiety may be more about getting ‘turned off’ than in getting ‘turned on’ – at least as far as the brain is concerned. This is according to researchers at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands who viewed PET scans of women during orgasm. They found that activity in the hippocampus and the amygdala both shut down during orgasmic experiences. These areas of the brain are instrumental in regulating alertness and anxiety. The study’s authors said their findings support the commonly held belief that stress and anxiety decrease with sexual activity, and they have the brain scans to prove it!
Better As You Age
So there you have the research that shows there are many ways that a healthy sex life contributes to better health overall. Frequent sex contributes to greater cognition, less stress, improved skin and even pain relief. Physical and emotional health gains are to be found by scheduling more time for physical intercourse and intimacy. But perhaps one of the biggest benefits to sex in your 30s and beyond is the clear understanding that your most valuable sexual organ isn’t between your legs – it’s between your ears!