Having regular sex can produce a variety of benefits for both men and women. Going beyond a fun activity in the bedroom, studies have linked sexual intercourse (and even masturbation) to better functioning and overall health. Here are eight reasons why shouldn't shy away from enjoying an active sex life:

1. It helps prevent heart problems

The chemical homocysteine, when in excess, can increase the risk of blood clots and heart attacks. Studies have suggested that sex may help prevent the build-up of homocysteine by improving blood flow and circulation in the body. However, the catch was that only men were shown to experience this benefit. 

2. Your sleep quality is improved

Sleep and sex appear to have an equal effect on each other as better sex equals better sleep and vice versa. After you experience an orgasm, your body releases prolactin, a hormone that helps you relax. Levels of this hormone after sexual intercourse can be "400% greater than that following masturbation."

3. The risk of prostate cancer is reduced

Sexual intercourse, nocturnal emissions, and masturbation have all been linked to a reduced risk of prostate cancer. While scientists still haven't been able to establish a causal relationship, it has been suggested that ejaculation helps flush out harmful chemicals. 

4. It helps in relieving pain

Whether it's a pounding headache or joint pain, you might want to consider getting help from an orgasm. Stimulation is said to significantly increase your pain tolerance threshold, particularly for women who may find relief from menstrual cramps by masturbating.

"Orgasms help strengthen the pelvic floor and improve blood flow to the genitals," said Dr. Alyse Kelly-Jones, an OB-GYN from North Carolina. 

5. Overall stress levels are lowered 

The release of dopamine and endorphins can provide heightened pleasure and a sense of well-being. Having sex is a naturally pleasurable activity that can boost your mood and regulate anxiety by reducing stress signals sent to the brain.  

6. Like exercise, it burns calories

"Sex can be a significant workout," says Dr. Naomi Greenblatt, medical director at The Rocking Chair in New Jersey. "You can burn anywhere from 85 to 250 calories every time you have sex."

7. Your brain is in better shape

Research has found that people who engage in regular intercourse may have an improved cognitive function, especially as they get older. A study from Oxford University in the United Kingdom suggested that frequent sex was linked to better working memory, fluency, and executive function. This may be a result of reduced inflammatory processes and the growth of new cells in the brain.

8. It fights against physical aging

Dr. David Weeks, former head of psychology at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital in the U.K., referred to sexual satisfaction as "a major contributor to quality of life," and added that both men and women could reap anti-aging benefits from it.

He suggested that, on average, people who engage in sex tend to look a few years younger than their actual age. The secretion of human growth hormone (HGH) and endorphins are said to improve the way your skin looks by preventing wrinkles and sagging.