There are surprising benefits of sex, which extend well beyond the bedroom. Sex not only feels good, but it can be good for you too. This is shown by the fact that sexually active people take fewer sick days.
Health Benefits of Healthy Sex
Some of the health benefits of having a healthy sex life include:
- Strengthened immune system
- Improved libido
- Better bladder control in women (by strengthening the pelvic floor)
- Lowered blood pressure
- Increased heart rate and use of various muscles (like exercise)
- Lowered heart attack risk
- Hormone balance
- Pain reduction
- Reduction in risk of prostate cancer (in men ejaculating frequently)
- Improved sleep
- Better coping ability and stress management
- Improved self-esteem and happiness
In addition, chronic back and leg pain, reduced menstrual cramps, arthritic pain, and some cases of headache can be blocked by orgasm.
Research at Wilkes University in Pennsylvania found that college students who had sex once or twice a week had stronger immune systems and were better able to defend the body against germs, viruses, and other intruders.
Other research suggests that women who have vaginal intercourse often have less risk of breast cancer than those who do not.
What is Healthy Sex?
Dr. Sonia Borg, an accomplished sexologist and author says healthy sex is “feeling good about the sex we’re having.”
Define “healthy” or “normal” sex for yourself and as a couple. Sexuality is personal, and what constitutes a healthy sex life is going to be different for different people.
According to Dr. Borg, there are no rules for how many times a week, how long each session should last, or what you should be doing in the bed. Sexually healthy individuals and relationships have the common traits of trust, honesty, freedom from guilt or shame, communication, and allowance for the other person to feel how they feel.
An open, trusting relationship can be exceedingly difficult. Often we would rather let our sex lives and relationships waste away rather than share our deepest thoughts. Many of us have been taught to feel guilt and shame when it comes to sex. There is no fault; this is a reflection on much larger scales of culture and society.
In some countries, there is very little sex education. Individuals are not really allowed to talk about sex to anyone, books on sexual health are burned, and the stigma regarding sex outside procreation is strong. As a result, STI rates are incredibly high.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), countries where sexuality is not a taboo subject have lower rates of sexually transmitted diseases. Dr. Borg says, “if even thinking about your sexuality unsettles you, don’t just ignore these feelings. Sex is natural, and your response to sexuality is just as natural, and it is also incredibly important to your overall well-being.”
Four Steps to a Healthier Sex Life
- Define healthy sex (be specific — healthy sex for me, is …)
- Identify the type of sex life you’d like to have (describe it in great detail)
- Identify the gaps between your desired sex life and your actual sex life
- Each day or week – some defined amount of time – take action on those items.
According to Dr. Michael Cirigliano of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, sexual activity is a form of physical exercise. Making love three times a week burns around 7,500 calories in a year — the equivalent of jogging 75 miles. A night of love raises the amount of oxygen in the cells keeping the organs and tissues functioning at their peak.
Five Must-Haves for Healthy Sex
Sex therapist Wendy Maltz has identified five features for healthy sex:
- Consent – you can freely and comfortably choose whether or not to engage in sexual activity. You are able to stop the activity at any time during the sexual contact.
- Equality – your sense of personal power is on an equal level with your partner. Neither of you dominates the other.
- Respect – you have positive regard for yourself and for your partner. You feel respected by your partner.
- Trust – you trust your partner on both a physical and emotional level. You have mutual acceptance of vulnerability and an ability to respond to it with sensitivity.
- Safety – you feel secure and safe within the sexual setting. You are comfortable with and assertive about where, when and how the sexual activity takes place. You feel safe from the possibility of harm, such as unwanted pregnancy, sexually transmitted infection, and physical injury.
In her book The Difference Between Healthy and Unhealthy Sex, Maltz recommends spending time together engaging in lots of honest, open communication, and a strong friendship with your partner before becoming lovers.