It all begins with emotional and verbal communication.
Good sex does not just happen naturally, said Lily McNair, a psychology professor at Spelman College. ''If you're in love and you're together, it's just supposed to be good -- one size fits all. But it's not that way.''
Before having sex, talk about your expectations, what you like and the role of sex in your relationship, she recommends. Such discussions can be difficult and require a lot of time, effort, vulnerability and trust.
Once you break through the communication gap, you can reap the emotional and physical benefits of a healthy sex life.
Studies suggest that regular sex promotes good health, because people tend to pay more attention to their bodies. As a result, people live longer, said Celia Dominguez, an assistant professor of reproductive endocrinology and infertility at Emory University. The cardiovascular exercise strengthens the heart and muscles and releases endorphins that help to relieve stress, pain and depression. It also helps to lower body weight, increase stamina and boost the immune system.
''If you do it right -- eyes wide open, lights on, within a nurturing relationship -- you benefit psychologically,'' said Doug Weiss, author of ''Intimacy: A 100-Day Guide to Lasting Relationships,'' a guide to help people develop emotional connection, oneness and bonding. ''It's good for your spirit, soul and body.''
The sex diet
About four years ago, Kerry McCloskey made an accidental discovery: The more sex she had, the better she felt and the better she wanted to look.
So the New Jersey woman, who was about 20 pounds overweight, enlisted the help of her husband, Ben, to create a diet regimen with sex as the primary form of exercise. The couple also cut down on processed and sugary foods and added lean meats, fruits and vegetables to their diet.
''We made it into a routine, and we even developed routines,'' said McCloskey, who lost 23 pounds in six months. Her husband lost 15. ''I gained a new sense of confidence and inner peace, and it translated to every aspect of my life.''
Last year, McCloskey penned ''The Ultimate Sex Diet,'' a guide that teaches you how to slim down and shape up while enhancing your love life.
Fixing sexual dysfunction|
An estimated four in 10 women experience some form of sexual difficulty because of emotional, hormonal or physical factors. Female sexual dysfunction is categorized by low sexual desire, sexual arousal disorder, orgasmic disorder or sexual pain disorder, with the symptoms often overlapping. Treatment options include:
• Make healthy lifestyle changes. Avoid drinking excessive amounts of alcohol, stop smoking, exercise regularly and make time for relaxation. All are as important for your sexual health as for your overall health.
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