Why getting hot under the covers could boost both your mental and physical healthSeptember 13, 2020
SEXPERTS found that getting frisky once a week can have health benefits.
From boosting collagen to helping your heart, here’s your tip-to-toe guide to how a healthy sex life can be good for you.
Nooky, sexy time, the big O.
Sure, it feels good, makes us happy, and no one can deny that photogenic afterglow.But did you know that, other than the natural high it gives you, having sex can actually be really good for your physical, mental and emotional health?
Sexperts at Washington University recently found that getting frisky once a week halves your risk of early death, while also lowering your chances of cancer, heart disease and other illnesses. And it turns out that the benefits don’t stop there…
It boosts your collagen
Yep, you read that right. Getting down to it can increase collagen levels – but in your vagina, not your face!“The physical activity of sex stimulates the collagen in your vagina, keeping it supple, healthy and strong,” explains consultant gynaecologist Tania Adib.
“Think about how a facial massage works the collagen in your face – it’s the same principle.” And it’s a real case of “use it or lose it” when it comes to keeping up good vaginal health.
“If you’re not using the vagina, it shrinks and becomes dry. But a reasonable amount of regular sex maintains it, keeping the skin healthy and everything lubricated,” says Tania.
“In turn, this makes all sexual activity more pleasurable than if you’re only having sex once in a while.”
It improves your bladder control
If the thought of sneezing at the wrong moment puts fear into your heart, then having more sex could help with that. Childbirth and ageing can see some women suffer from weaker bladder control, but spending more time in the sack could counteract this.
“If you suffer from stress urinary incontinence – leaking when you cough, laugh or sneeze – then having stronger pelvic floor muscles can give you more control,” says Valentina Roffi, a clinical specialist physiotherapist.
“During sex, the pelvic-floor muscles contract and release – especially as you get closer to climaxing – and this helps to tone and strengthen the muscles. The stronger these muscles are, the more bladder control you have.”
Tania agrees: “Regular sex can prevent things like incontinence laxity, but also prolapse – where the womb, bowel or bladder can slip down from their normal position and bulge into the vagina. To give your pelvic floor a daily workout, sit and squeeze the muscles 10 to 15 times, holding for a few seconds.” And download Squeezy (£2.99, App Store or Google Play), an NHS app that reminds you to do your pelvic-floor exercises and gives tips and visual guides on how to do them more effectively.
It’s good for your heart
Now, we’re not talking about a quick, drunken fumble. Instead, an enthusiastic sex session can be considered a good form of cardiovascular exercise. The Washington University study found that people who have sex once a week are 21% less likely to die from heart disease, and 69% less likely to die of cancer.
“An energetic session can see your heart rate multiply as much as three times, with your breathing almost twice as fast,” says Johanna. “And keeping your heart rate elevated and your blood pumping are vital for a healthy cardiovascular system.”
Just as any form of regular exercise can increase your immunity, sex and reaching orgasm is no different. “It boosts your level of immunoglobulin, which helps your body build up its resistance to bugs and flu,” adds Johanna. And if you want to burn lots of calories at the same time as having fun in the bedroom, then skip the missionary position and opt to be on top instead!
Burning on average 188 calories, depending on duration and intensity, the “girl on top” position engages your biggest muscles (the bum and thighs). Otherwise, if you’re feeling adventurous, the 149-calorie-burning “wheelbarrow” position (where you’re balancing on your arms) or sex standing up, which burns an average of 145 calories and strengthens your core, are also worth a go.
It will help you nod off
Having trouble sleeping? Nooky could be your saviour, thanks to the hormone prolactin. “Post-orgasm, prolactin is released, and this makes us feel relaxed and sleepy,” says Kate Moyle, a psycho-sexologist and Lelo’s sex and relationship expert. So it’s way easier to fall asleep after orgasming.
But what if your issue is with overthinking come bedtime? “Sex lowers the production of the stress hormone cortisol, but it’s also been shown that during sex the logical part of the brain becomes less active (so you feel less inhibited in sexual situations), so those struggling to sleep because they’re juggling too many thoughts may find it a welcome distraction,” adds Kate.
It will banish your headache
Got a headache? Put down the paracetamol and hop into bed instead. Sex floods the brain with happy hormone dopamine and cuddle hormone oxytocin. This euphoric cocktail can help banish everything from period pains to mild headaches.
But that’s not all. Studies also show that orgasms cause the brain to release another happy hormone, serotonin – which works like a powerful painkiller. This medley is so strong that a study from Rutgers University in New Jersey found that reaching the big O increased a woman’s pain tolerance by a massive 75%!
It’s a great stress buster
Oxytocin helps with feeling calm – reducing how stressed out you feel. But while it peaks at orgasm, even sensual touch can kick-start its production.
Plus, research shows that having sex regularly can also encourage growth in the hippocampus, which is the region in the brain that helps control stress levels.
And there’s more. “Being in the moment and focusing on your pleasure is also a really good way to add some mindfulness – another stress buster – to your day,” says Kate.
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