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Make Love, Calm Down

Got stress? Sex might be just what the doctor ordered.

Do your palms sweat, knees shake and lips quiver at the thought of giving a presentation? 

The key to keeping your jitters at bay may lie between the sheets. According to a study, having sex before a stressful event, such as giving a speech or going on an interview, can greatly reduce anxiety. And the calming effect can last up to a week. Of course, while sex is good for stress, an easier way to ensure a smooth performance is to simply know your stuff. 

Wondering exactly how researchers measured the effect of sex on stress? A small group of people wrote down their daily sexual activities for two weeks. The same group then underwent several stress tests that checked their blood pressure both before and while giving a presentation. Afterward, researchers compared the impact of different sexual activities on blood pressure. In this study, people who had intercourse were less stressed and their blood pressure returned to normal faster than those who engaged in other forms of sexual activity. But those who abstained had the highest blood pressure response to stress. 

How are sex and stress linked? This small study, like several others, points to a hormone called oxytocin as one possibility. Oxytocin seems to play a role when two people bond. It's released when couples have intercourse and it's known to reduce the sweaty, shaky signs of stress. However, to say that the physiology of sex is complicated is a marvelous understatement. Researchers are still trying to identify the various ways that it affects human behavior. 

Of course, no stress reduction strategy is worth pursuing if it puts your health at risk. The RealAge benefits to having an active, fulfilling sex life only apply when it's safe, monogamous sex

Medically reviewed in January 2020. Updated in March 2021. 

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