Who has time for sex any more? That’s a question I hear from women whose plates are full with working, caring for parents, caring for kids, even caring for grandchildren. With all of the demands on our time and energy, why not just let sex fade into the background? Beyond the intimacy sex brings to our relationships, research continues to document how and why regular sex improves both our mental and physical health. These effects are significant enough to feel as good about an active sex life as about taking our daily vitamins. Consider, for example, that sex is
- a beauty treatment. Intercourse releases estrogen, which helps keep skin firm and hair shiny.
- a good aerobic workout. A moderately strenuous 30-minute frolic burns about 85 calories. (A vigorous, one-hour session can burn up to 200 calories!) Not only that, it gets your heart pumping. Pulse rates rise from about 70 beats per minute to an athletic 150. Finally, intercouse tones the butt, belly, and those all-important pelvic-floor muscles that are so critical to bladder control.
- a natural chill pill. Sex lowers blood pressure and relieves stress. One study revealed that simply being hugged by their partners lowered women’s blood pressure and raised their oxytocin levels.
- an antibiotic. Regular sex is linked to higher levels of the infection-fighting antibody immunoglobulin A (IgA).
- a love potion. Sex pumps up to five times the normal levels of oxytocin into our systems just before orgasm. This chemical has been called the “love drug.” It makes people feel trusting, bonded, intimate, and generous—all good things for a relationship.
- a pain killer. Those high levels of oxytocin release endorphins into the bloodstream, which can lower pain thresholds by half. Intercourse has been known to relieve aches and pains, such as arthritis and headache.
- an antidepressant. Again, the chemical and hormonal stew that sex unleashes, including oxytocin, endorphins, and serotonin, make us feel good in body and mind. The release of serotonin can stabilize anxiety and improve mood. It enhances our overall sense of well-being.
- a cardiac protective factor. Regular sex (up to three times per week) could lower the risk of heart attack by half, according to a study at Queen’s University in Belfast.
Dr. Barb DePree, M.D., has been a gynecologist and women’s health provider for almost 30 years and a menopause care specialist for the past ten.