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Want to get healthy? Have sex

In order to get fit, experts say to avoid fast food, get plenty of sleep and exercise and ... have sex? Dr. Laura Berman explains why regular intercourse does a body good, and how a healthy body leads to better loving.
/ Source: TODAY contributor

We all know that regular sex is an important part of a healthy, happy relationship, but did you know that regular sex is also an important part of a healthy, happy body? Indeed, sex is more than just a pleasurable activity — it is a big part of who we are, both emotionally and physically.

A recent Newsweek article found that regular sex has six amazing health benefits — it can increase a youthful appearance, it can promote the production of germ-fighting antibodies, it can strengthen a woman’s pelvic floor, it can burn calories, it can stabilize a woman’s menstrual cycle and it can offer natural pain relief in the form of orgasms.

While a healthy sex life can contribute to a healthy body, an unhealthy body can also contribute to an unhealthy sex life. If your sex life has been lackluster or sub-par lately, the reasons might be more obvious than you might think:

  • Poor nutrition: Fast food not only does a number on your waistline, it can also do a number on your sex life. This is particularly true as we age and reach menopause. During menopause, estrogen levels get out of whack, which causes insulin levels to increase and thyroid levels to go down. Thus, women end up eating more food and burning fewer calories, which causes weight to accumulate. Healthy food choices are imperative during this time, as is daily exercise. (Don’t forget to take advantage of Newsweek’s findings — sex is a cardiovascular exercise, so trade it in for the stationary bike and you can still burn up to 300 calories an hour!)

  • Stress: Expanded waistlines can also be due to another hormone: cortisol. Otherwise known as the stress hormone, cortisol can lead to all kinds of health problems, including excess abdominal fat. Cortisol is also a known libido-killer, so it is no wonder that sex is the last thing on your mind after a bad day at work. Exercise and meditation can decrease cortisol to a healthy level, which can improve your blood pressure and your love life. Another good way to decrease stress is to keep a “gratitude journal” — researchers have found that people who express gratitude and appreciation daily feel less stressed out than people who do not.

  • Lack of sleep: Insomnia is often a vicious cycle, beginning with a caffeine overdrive in the morning, and ending with exhaustion in the evening. Most Americans would agree that they barely have the energy for sex at the end of the day! Improve your sleeping habits — and consequently, your sex habits — by cutting back on caffeine throughout the day. Substitute your giant cup of a coffee with a small cup of tea, and snack on foods like almonds throughout the day — they give you a natural burst of energy without the sugar dip that comes from a candy bar.

    Last but not least, get the television out of your bedroom! A recent study found that the blue lights emitted from TV can disrupt sleeping patterns and restfulness throughout the entire night. And, finally, if you really just don’t have the energy for sex in the evening, make an effort to rise a little early in the morning in order to have time for sex before work.

Good health and good sex go hand-in-hand. And, since most of us are making resolutions to be healthier in 2008, it is good to know that regular intercourse is a big part of being in tip-top shape. Finally, a resolution that will be fun to keep!

Dr. Laura Berman is the director of the in Chicago, a specialized health care facility dedicated to helping women and couples find fulfilling sex lives and enriched relationships. She is also an assistant clinical professor of OB-GYN and psychiatry at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University. She has been working as a sex educator, researcher and therapist for 18 years.