Big presentation coming up at work? Make sex part of your preparation. A 2006 study published in Biological Psychology recorded study participants’ sexual activity over a two-week period, then asked them to give a speech to an unsupportive audience and take a verbal mathematics quiz. People who had had vaginal intercourse during the previous two weeks experienced significantly lower blood pressure and stress levels during the test and also recovered faster from the stressful situation than those who indulged in other sexual activities. For reasons researchers are still trying to identify, vaginal intercourse seems to carry the biggest health benefit for heterosexual couples.
The next time you have a headache, don’t postpone a little hanky panky. Stimulation of the vaginal wall and clitoris can decrease your sensitivity to pain an average of 50 percent, according to research by Barry Komisaruk, PhD, professor of psychology at Rutgers University. Separate studies have also shown it can help ease migraine and lower back pain. Why? Arousal, and especially orgasm, trigger the release of the feel-good hormone oxytocin in areas of the brain affected by pain, say researchers.
It sounds risky, but semen may act as a natural antidepressant. Women who frequently have sex without a condom are less likely to become depressed compared to women who occasionally use protection, women who always use protection and women who abstain from intercourse, according to a study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior. Ejaculate contains a number of potentially mood-boosting hormones, such as prostaglandins and oxytocin, which women may absorb intravaginally, say researchers.
There’s nothing wrong with a little bump and grind-especially when it can boost your brainpower. In a 2010 Princeton University study, animals who had the most sex experienced an increase in the number of neurons in their hippocampus, an area of the brain linked to memory, as well as an increase in the number of connections between those brain cells compared to animals who had less or no sex.
Do it for your girls: Women who have infrequent or no vaginal intercourse are three times more likely to develop breast cancer than those who have more, according to a French study in the Journal of Clinical Epidemiology. In addition, an earlier American study found that women whose partners used condoms or withdrawal, as well as women not engaging in intercourse at all, had a breast cancer rate five times higher than users of contraceptives that do not reduce vaginal exposure to semen. There are a couple of theories why. Some researchers believe sperm contains antigens that are absorbed through the vagina. Other says oxytocin and DHEA-two "happiness hormones" that increase with arousal-may have a protective effect.
Why count sheep when you can count how many Os you achieve? One study found that 32 percent of the 1,866 American women who reported masturbating in the previous three months did so to help themselves fall sleep, says sexuality expert Beverly Whipple, PhD. "Orgasm causes a surge in oxytocin and endorphins that may act as sedation."
Sex instead of starvation? Yes, please. Women who have the most sex tend to have smaller waists and hips than those who do the horizontal mambo less frequently, according to a German study. Higher levels of body fat are associated with less brain dopamine activity and overeating tends to increase mood-altering levels of serotonin, both of which can impair sexual desire and/or function, says Stuart Brody, PhD, who reviewed the research. At the very least, a vigorous roll in the hay can burn about 50 calories, so go ahead and have that extra chocolate kiss.
To avoid getting sick, spend more time in the sack. College students who had sex once or twice a week had 30 percent higher levels of immunoglobulin A, an immune-boosting antibody, than those who abstained, according to a Wilkes University study.
Menopause is no excuse to put your libido on lockdown. Nigerian women who had sex at least once every seven days experienced, on average, about 100 fewer hot flashes per week than women who remained abstinent. The improvement may have been due to changes in luteinizing and follicle-stimulating hormones, say researchers.
That old adage "use it or lose it" may also apply to your va-jay-jay. Multiple studies show that postmenopausal women who continue to be sexually active-and yes, that includes masturbation-are less likely to experience vaginal atrophy and dryness. Arousal increases blood flow to the pelvis, which maintains healthy, elastic tissue, say researchers.
Sex may make you lose track of time but did you know it can also turn back the clock? In a study conducted at Scotland’s Royal Edinburgh Hospital, researcher David Weeks, PhD, asked a panel of judges to view more than 3,500 participants through a one-way mirror and then guess their age. Turns out the men and women whose ages were regularly underestimated by seven to 12 years were having sex an average of three times a week compared to adults in the same age bracket and their lovemaking lasted three times as long. Sex can help erase stress and sleepless nights, say researchers, both of which can take a toll on your appearance. The only other factor with a stronger correlation to youthfulness was how physically active the study participants were.
If you thought sex made you feel great, wait until you hear what it does for your honey. In addition to most of the benefits reaped by women, having an active sex live can reduce a man’s risk of prostate cancer and heart disease by nearly 50 percent. Plus, according to a study of men aged 45 to 59, those who orgasm at least twice a week are 50 percent less likely to die within 10 years than men who ejaculate less than once a month.