The Hidden Health Benefits of Sex
“Having sex regularly can do more than make you feel closer to your partner—it can actually make you physically healthier,” says Hilda Hutcherson, M.D., a clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Columbia University and author of Pleasure: A Woman’s Guide to Getting the Sex You Want, Need, and Deserve. Check out a few of the surprising perks you can reap from great sex.
If you’re freaking out about tomorrow’s job interview, slip between the sheets. Research from the University of the West of Scotland reveals that people who had intercourse at least once over two weeks were better able to manage stressful situations such as public speaking, says study author and psychology professor Stuart Brody, Ph.D. That’s because endorphins and oxytocin are released during sex, and these feel-good hormones activate pleasure centers in the brain that create feelings of intimacy and relaxation and help stave off anxiety and depression, says WH advisor Laura Berman, Ph.D., an assistant clinical professor of ob-gyn and psychiatry at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University and author of It’s Not Him, It’s You! You don’t have to climax to net the effects, but you’ll get the biggest surge of soothing hormones if you have an orgasm. Just one more reason to shoot for a stellar finish!
It’s downright dreamy how an O can lull you to sleep. That’s because the same endorphins that help you de-stress can also relax your mind and body, priming you for slumber, says Cindy M. Meston, Ph.D., director of the Sexual Psychophysiology Laboratory at the University of Texas at Austin and coauthor of Why Women Have Sex. Plus, during orgasm, the hormone prolactin is released. “Prolactin levels are naturally higher when we sleep, which suggests a strong relationship between the two,” she says. But if you’re wild in the sack, take note: Highly active sex can make you feel more energized than sleepy. Sex should never be a snooze, but if you want to use knocking boots as a sleep aid, skip the acrobatics and opt for a subdued session.
Talk about flipping the script: “Yes, tonight, honey—I have a headache.” The surge of hormones released after an orgasm can help ease any annoying ache, whether it’s a strained back or a head pounder, says Meston. A study conducted at the Headache Clinic at Southern Illinois University found that half of female migraine sufferers reported relief after climaxing. “The endorphins that are released during an orgasm closely resemble morphine, and they effectively relieve pain,” says Meston. Have a migraine but your man isn’t around? Self-medicate by treating yourself with some solo sex. As long as you hit your peak, masturbating will have the same soothing effect.
There’s nothing sexy about sneezing, wheezing, or that runny-nose look. But getting hot and bothered can help you avoid coming down with the sniffles: People who have sex were found to have higher levels of an antibody called immunoglobulin A (IgA), according to researchers at Wilkes University in Pennsylvania. These antibodies help combat diseases and keep the body safe from colds and flu. Save up your sick days and use them as sex days!
A Youthful Glow
Get busy to get gorgeous: In a study conducted at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital in Scotland, a panel of judges viewed participants through a one-way mirror and guessed their ages. Those who were enjoying lots of nooky with a steady partner—four times a week, on average—were perceived to be seven to 12 years younger than their actual age. Regular sex promotes the release of hormones, including testosterone and estrogen, which can keep the body looking young and vital; estrogen has also been shown to promote soft skin and shiny hair, says Meston. Move over, moisturizer—time to turn back the clock with some shagging.
Lighter Periods (with Fewer Cramps)
“When a woman orgasms, her uterus contracts and, in the process, rids the body of cramp-causing compounds,” explains Meston. The increased number of uterine contractions can also help expel blood and tissue more quickly, helping to end your period faster, she adds.
Going horizontal while menstruating has also been shown to help decrease the risk for endometriosis, a common condition in which uterine tissue grows outside of the uterus, causing pelvic pain and sex that hurts, according to researchers at Yale University School of Medicine.
Sex during your period may not sound too appealing, but don’t stress over making a mess. Just lay down a dark-colored towel and stick to missionary; when you’re lying down, your flow tends to be lighter, says WH advisor Michelle Callahan, Ph.D., author of Ms. Typed: Stop Sabotaging Your Relationships and Find Dating Success.
A More Toned Bod
Sex counts as cardio! A romp can burn anywhere from 85 to 250 calories, depending on the length of the session (obviously a quickie will be less strenuous than an all-night pleasurefest), says Meston. In fact, cardiologists consider sexual activity comparable to a modest workout on a treadmill, according to a study published in The American Journal of Cardiology.
Not only will your ticker get a workout, but you’ll also squeeze in some sculpting: “Your abs and the muscles in your back, butt, and thighs get a good workout as you thrust during sex,” says Hutcherson. Looks like you have a pretty good reason to skip spin class on Sunday morning and work up a sweat in bed.
How to Have Better Sex: Pleasure Lessons from the World’s Greatest Sex Hacker
Today in straight man dream jobs: Kenneth Play, a self-described “sex hacker” who gets paid to watch couples have sex.
He has a PornHub channel, KennethPlay, where he demos the best fingering and G-spot stimulation techniques with porn star Riley Reyes. He has the body of a superhero, all muscle and no fat. He’s a renowned expert on squirting, he co-founded a community that throws some of the best sex parties in the United States, and he’s bedded over 400 women and counting. He makes the world—especially the bedroom—a better place for everyone.
Sex Hack I: Increase Your Cliteracy
Some men approach a vagina the way they might approach a piñata: swinging in the dark, hoping to strike some unknown treasure. “There are so many techniques to touch that can make someone feel amazing. Learn about the G-spot and the clitoris,” Kenneth says. Look at a drawing. “You need to develop a 3-D map to understand the interior structure that you can’t see. That’s the fitness stuff: proprioception and kinesthetic awareness.” That sounds daunting, sure, but Kenneth says that if you can locate a G-spot and the clitoris, you’re already 80 percent there.
“I tell my students that learning to how to have good sex is like learning to play tennis. If both people don’t know how to play, it’s a terrible game. That’s why I want to turn my Play Labs [Kenneth’s in-person sex education events] into digital products. My goal is to make sex ed as accessible as porn.”
Sex Hack II: Your Skills Are Mightier Than Your Sword
Kenneth begins every speaking event by saying, “My name is Kenneth Play and I have an average-sized penis.” It puts people at ease and reminds people that a porn star-sized dick is not required for a good sexual encounter. Kenneth isn’t good at sex because he won the genetic lottery. He’s good at sex because he’s worked at it. And that’s the ultimate takeaway: Good sex is about arousal and pleasure more than it’s about penetration. If, for example, you’re trying to fuck people who aren’t attracted to you… don’t. Compatible partners and practice are the keys to good sex.
Dispelling insecurity is one of Kenneth’s major goals. Kenneth is really, really attractive, but after immigrating from Hong Kong he felt sexually invisible growing up in New York. “Asian male sexuality is the butt of the joke when it comes to penis size or just not being attractive.” Indeed, insensitive comments about Asian male sexuality are rampant in the U.S. (ahem, Steve Harvey). Kenneth felt like he couldn’t measure up. Then he got ripped, he got laid—a lot—and he got really good at sex. But it wasn’t the perfect body or perfect clitoral massage skills (“gently pinching her clit, you can kind of jerk her off”, he begins early in one of his videos) that finally made him comfortable with himself. It was learning to focus on what he could change and understanding what he couldn’t change. A sexy serenity prayer.
Sex Hack III: Don’t Cockblock Yourself
It was his first trip to a mildly successful sex party that taught Kenneth the important lesson of not cockblocking yourself, both physically and psychologically. “I decided to take Adderall that day, and I didn’t know that it makes your penis not work. It was my one opportunity to have a threesome, and I was thinking, What’s wrong with my cock?! I was so embarrassed, and I thought that probably could have been the most embarrassing sexual experience of my life. But I have this high resiliency. I thought, If that’s the worst, I can handle it and it can only get better. At the end of the night, after the failed threesome, I saw a woman with these great curves; she was beautiful. I was kind of shy, but I asked, ‘Can I put my face in your boobs?’ and she said ‘Oh, come here’ and she just pulled my face toward her. I remember putting my face between her breasts and thinking, Wow. I didn’t know all you had to do was ask.”