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Regular, Enthusiastic Sex Does a Body Good

By Marcel J. Hernandez, N.D.

../images/"HealthyI’ve discovered that making a New Year’s resolution to exercise more often is not so hard to keep, after all. It is the kind of exercise you choose that makes all the difference. I mean, how hard is to make and keep a resolution like “I think I’ll have sex more frequently with my lover?” Of course, your sweetie has to buy into the, um, exercise program as well.

Having regular and enthusiastic sex in a good, solid relationship confers a plethora of measurable physiological and emotional benefits on both males and females. Studies clearly show how arousal and an active sex life may lead help you stay healthier and live longer.

In one of the most meticulously conducted studies correlating overall health with sexual frequency, Queens University in Belfast tracked the health histories of about 1,000 middle-aged men of comparable circumstances, age and health over the course of a decade. The study’s findings, published in 1997 in the British Medical Journal, showed that men who reported the highest frequency of orgasm enjoyed a death rate half that of of men who had minimal sexual activity. Many other studies have contributed more specific information on how regular sexual intimacy affects the body.

Sex improves your sense of smell

After orgasm, production of the hormone prolactin surges dramatically, causing development of new neurons in the part of the brain that senses smells.

Sex reduces the risk of heart disease

The strongest case that can be made for the benefits of sex come from studies of aerobic fitness. A follow up to the Queens University study mentioned above revealed that men who had sex three or more times a week reduced their risk of heart attack or stroke by fifty percent as compared to men who had intercourse an average of less than once a month.

Sex promotes weight loss

Sex,after all, is exercise. A spirited encounter burns around 200 calories -- about the same as running 15 minutes on a treadmill. The pulse rate during sexual activity can rise as high as 150 beats per minute, similar to focused jogging. During an energetic session, muscles in the pelvic area, thighs, buttocks, arms, neck and chest are brought into play.

Sex also boosts production of testosterone, which leads to stronger bones and muscles. Men's Health magazine has gone so far as to call the bed the single greatest piece of exercise equipment ever invented. A big plus is that you get to sleep with your own personal trainer.

Sex improves mood and reduces depression

Sex releases pleasure-inducing endorphins during arousal and climax that can relieve depression and anxiety, and increase vibrancy.

Sex promotes pain relief

Immediately before orgasm, an enormous number of happy molecules called endorphins are released into the brain. Endorphins alleviate all kinds of pain, including the aches of back pain, headache (including migraines) and arthritis. Activating this region of the brain also reduces anxiety and has a calming effect. In women, sexual activity also increases production of estrogen, which can reduce the pain of PMS.

Sex boosts the immune system

A Wilkes University (PA) study reported that people who have sex once or twice a week show 30% higher levels of an antibody called immunoglobulin A, which turbo-charges the immune system. Researchers in Sweden are exploring how sex affects another immunological function: the healing of wounds.

Sex reduces urinary incontinence

The muscles used during sex are the same ones that help you stem the flow of urine. People who have trouble controlling their bladders are taught how to do Kegel exercises, a cadenced tightening and relaxation of the muscles of the pelvic floor.

Sex protects against tooth decay

Semen contains highly absorbable, rich concentrations of zinc, calcium and other minerals shown to retard tooth decay. Since Hawaii Island Journal is enjoyed by a wide variety of readers, I’ll leave the mineral delivery system to your creative imaginations.

Sex contributes to prostate health

Many urologists have noted the connection between infrequent ejaculations and prostate cancer. A study recently published by the British Journal of Urology International asserts that men in their 20s can reduce by a third their chance of getting prostate cancer by ejaculating more than five times a week.

Sex may protect against cancer

Although no definitive studies have yet been done, researchers have noted that frequent sexual activity has been linked to a lower incidence both breast and prostate cancers.

Sex affects a number of other conditions

A happy sexual life can also contribute to higher self-esteem, better sleep, glowing, youthful skin and hair, and a variety of reproductive health benefits.

Can you have too much sex?

According to Dr. Claire Bailey, a sex researcher at the University of Bristol (England), there is little or no risk of a woman's overdosing on sex. In fact, she says, regular sessions can not only firm a woman's tummy and buttocks but also improve her posture. She also says that postmenopausal women who abstain from sex run the risk of vaginal atrophy, a condition with symptoms that lead to various stages of discomfort and loss of function.

Men, on the other hand, may experience some major and minor effects if they overdo it. No, they won’t go blind or develop warts on their hands. An overly athletic session may cause injury to the delicate internal tissues of the penis, causing a number of difficult-to-treat structural and functional conditions. It is also not clear what effect frequent ejaculations have on the systemic mineral content of the body since semen is so high in minerals that it takes from overall tissue stores.

Although a robust appetite for conscious sex with your intimate other may not always be the sole predicator of perfect health, research clearly shows that a healthy sex life plays a significant and essential part in the bigger picture. If, for some reason your libido has disappeared or functional issues are inhibiting your full experience of life, it is crucial that you visit a health professional who can assist you regain your balance.

Dr. Hernandez is happy to address your health-related questions in his column. He may be contacted at HawaiiND@BigIsland.net.

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