PART 3: Physiological and Psychological Benefits
We all want to do things that are good for us. Well, it’s been proven that one of those things is sex. If you combine sexual activity with a healthy lifestyle, fitness and good eating habits, you’ll be leading one happy, fulfilled life!
It’s normal for virtually all healthy people to desire sex. Of course, a stimulating partner and a loving relationship is important too. When the desire for sex is significantly reduced or lacking, it usually indicates some type of physiological imbalance. In smaller numbers of both men and women, certain primary psychological problems can reduce or eliminate sexual arousal, or even cause sexual aversion disorders. Some of these problems may be secondary to physiological imbalances.
In both men and women, the sex act involves many physiological processes. These include the actions of both the brain and spinal cord, with the help of neurotransmitters. Hormone activity, blood circulation, and muscle function also play key roles. Dysfunction in any of these areas can impair sexual activity and enjoyment. The result can be poor arousal, physical discomfort or pain, inability to reach orgasm, or lack of erection in men and poor vaginal lubrication in women.
Benefits of satisfying sex
What’s the best recipe for the realization of both physiological and psychological benefits from sex? The research seems clear: of the many forms of sexual activity couples can engage in, the combination of intercourse and orgasm is the most satisfying. Of course, the many forms of foreplay leading up to intercourse and orgasm are also important and contribute greatly to the pleasures of sex.
Studies also show that certain aspects of sex are associated with reduced benefits. One example is masturbation or “solo sex,” as it’s sometimes referred to in the medical journals. It’s common in all age groups of people, at times more often than partnered sex. While it may be satisfying to a degree, it’s less so compared to when intercourse is part of the sex act.
The use of condoms, and various types of oral sex have also been extensively surveyed. Overall, studies show these activities, including when orgasms occur, are not as satisfying, nor are they as health promoting as intercourse with orgasm. Neurologist Sigmund Freud, who said that sexual drives are primary motivational forces of human life, claimed that condom use during intercourse, like other sexual non-intercourse activities, can have a detrimental effect that “fueled the neuroses.” Current research indicates that condom users do have poorer relationship quality with their partners. Other studies show the greater physiological benefit of orgasms with intercourse versus non-intercourse, and orgasms with intercourse using condoms. (Of course, factors such as pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases must be seriously considered in the context of intercourse without condoms.)
In 2010, Dr. Stuart Brody of the School of Social Sciences, University of the West of Scotland, conducted a research review of previous medical studies that addressed health benefits from sex. He analyzed 174 of the top studies on this subject and categorized the benefits as psychological and physiological. The chart below highlights some of these rewards.
Psychological benefits include:
- Increased satisfaction with one’s mental health.
- Increased feelings of intimacy, trust, passion, and love.
- Increased marital happiness.
- Improved perception, identification and expression of emotions.
- Improved ability to relate intimately with the opposite sex.
- Reduced feelings of depression.
- Reduced suicide attempts.
Physiological benefits include:
- Improvement of prostate health.
- Reduced risk of breast cancer.
- General anesthesia effects in women.
- Improvement of pelvic muscle function.
- Improvement in gait.
- Reduced body fat.
- Improved metabolism.
- Balanced autonomic nervous system.
- Lower mortality.
- Lower blood pressure.
- Improved handling of and recovery from stress.
- Reduced stress hormones.
- Improved hormonal balance.
- Improved cardiovascular system.
- Improved testosterone levels.
- Reduced hot flash symptoms during menopause.
- Increased levels of brain dopamine.
- Longer life expectancy.
Healthy sex, along with proper diet and nutrition, and a balance of physical activity, is a key part of optimal fitness and health.
Dr. Phil Maffetone is a world-renowned fitness expert who has not only coached some of the greatest endurance athletes to ever have competed, but also helped turn Davide's life around. Circuit25 uses a number of Dr. Phil's coaching philosophies and eating plans in its methods to help people live fit and healthier lives.