Did you know that having sex regularly is good for you? In this article we look at the many surprising health benefits of sex.
Besides being pleasurable, there are many other reasons to get between the sheets. In fact, its benefits include the physical, mental and physiological. Plus, it also lets you bond more with your partner which is great for relationships.
Below are some of the most important science-backed health benefits of sex. We also go through what happens to your body when you stop having sex.
Health Benefits of Sex
1. It Reduce Stress
Glucocorticoids makeup a hormone class that regulates and stimulates stress responses within the body. And, though these hormones initially increase during a sexual encounter, sex reduces overall stress in total (1).
The endorphins that are released into your system during a sexually encounter flood the body. And, these chemicals lift overall mood and melt away the stress you are experiencing, in the process neutralizing the small amounts of glucocorticoids released during fornication.
Not only can sex help melt away stress you experienced before intimacy, but people who had been intimate recently responded to stressful situations better and their bodies released less cortisol in response to bad situations than those who hadn’t been intimate.
2. Sex is a Potent Pain Reliever
Chronic migraine pain and other forms of persistent pain can likewise be mitigated slightly by sexual intercourse (2).
While there isn’t one specific mechanism that causes pain to decrease from intercourse, there is a variety of reasons scientists believe this pain-relieving effect occurs.
Of course, endorphins play a role in making you feel physically better, as we mentioned earlier. But, certain ion-channels within the brain that play a role in pain responses are also temporarily modified during a sexual encounter.
Sex hormones also modify signaling molecules like cyclic-AMP and kinases that allow your brain to transmit stimuli and play a role in the release of other chemicals that can cause headaches and other pains.
3. It Puts You in a Better Mood
Endorphins affect the younger population and the older population just the same, with improvements of mood and general sense of well-being.
Having sex releases these neurotransmitters into your system and the benefits to your mood may be even better as you get older (3).
When compared to aging couples who did not perform frequent sexual behaviors, couples who did carry out these behaviors more frequently reported a better quality of life, better overall mood, and more satisfaction in their relationship.
It is important for you to consider that while you may get the endorphin boost alone from sexual activity, you will also feel more confident and happier because of these behaviors.
4. Stronger Immunity
Having sex will make you feel better mentally, but it also improves your physical health in more ways than one, the most notable being the boost it gives to your immune system (4).
Immunoglobulin A (IgA) is one of the most important antibodies that help your immune system defend the body from foreign invaders, they are produced in large amounts within the mucous membranes. The amount of IgA that can be detected in a sample is a good measure of how strong the immune system is, higher values make you less susceptible to illness.
When groups of saliva from students were analyzed for IgA levels, those who had sex “frequently,” (three or more times a week) had astronomically higher levels of IgA in their saliva than the other groups (4).
This increased amount of IgA reflects a stronger immune system in those who have sex often and a weaker immune response in those who have sex infrequently or not at all.
5. Sex Boosts Your Brain
You have probably heard the gimmicky claim on the internet that having more sex makes you smarter. And, while that is untrue, it is important to note that having more sex does enhance your cognitive function (5).
While it doesn’t boost your IQ, it does enhance cognitive function especially when the encounters are more frequent and occurring between older individuals (5).
The cognitive enhancements from sexual experiences stems partially from the dopamine release into the brain that acts on the D1 and D4 receptors which play a role in mental alertness, psychiatric, and neurological functions (5). These enhancements give your brain a boost even as you age.
6. Younger Skin
Research conducted by a University in Scotland has shown that having sex frequently, about three times per week, can make your skin look more youthful for a long time (6).
While the exact mechanism that causes the anti-aging effects sexual activity has on skin is still under investigation, there is speculation that it is due to the decrease in cortisol levels (6). Cortisol is the hormone your body releases when you experience or anticipate stress.
And, while stress is useful in certain cases, long term or chronic stress produces a lot of negative effects to your body including accelerate cell and skin aging. Thus, causing dryness, wrinkles and loss of elasticity.
In addition, growth hormones that are responsible for muscle and skin remodeling and growth are also released during intercourse which amplify the anti-aging properties sex can have.
That said, whatever causes these youthful effects, every individual sampled who reported having intercourse frequently looked subjectively younger to a panel of scientists than those who reported having less sex (6).
7. Better Fitness and Stamina
You probably don’t need me to tell you that sex is a workout. But, it is a more effective and fun way to get fit than your average walk around the park or running on a treadmill (7).
More importantly, achieving ideal fitness isn’t just physical. It is a combination of factors. But, in this section we will focus only on actual energy expenditure.
Since sex gets your heart rate elevated and you use your muscles, you can burn more calories during sex compared to speed walking or doing a short jog.
On an average sexual encounter, men burn just over 100 calories while women use up just under 70 calories (7). That energy expenditure is from just thirty minutes of sex once a week. Thus, if you have sex frequently you’re more likely to get in better physical shape compared to those who do not (7).
8. It Will Help You Sleep Better
Prolactin is a hormone that is released during and immediately after intercourse. And, it is responsible for the sleepiness you feel after a roll-in-the-hay (8).
Prolactin from partner-to-partner sexual intercourse as appose to masturbation releases four times the prolactin levels which is what makes you sleep so much better.
That said, prolactin isn’t solely responsible for your sleepiness. Another hormone involved is oxytocin. Also known as the “love hormone”, oxytocin not only helps neutralize your stress hormones, but also helps you get a restful night of sleep (9).
Additionally, there are evolutionary adaptions at work for post-intercourse sleepiness since the original purpose of sex was to propagate, recover quickly, and propagate again.
9. Regular Sex Will Let You Lose Weight
Maintaining physical fitness is essential to weight loss. Being sexually active can help burn the calories and cut the pounds in more ways than one.
Intercourse releases growth hormone, androgens, and oxytocin all of which help control body weight. Oxytocin curbs hunger and decreases calorie consumption. Androgens promote the energy consuming task of muscle formation which helps burn more calories and growth hormone which promotes muscle and skin reformation (10).
Not only does sex promote processes that enhance weight loss and muscle deposition, but the act of intercourse itself burns calories and counts as a workout all on its own (7).
10. It Lowers Your Risk of Heart Disease
Heart disease kills millions of people in America every year. But, having partner to partner sexual intercourse can help lower your risks for heart disease (11).
Luckily for us ladies, a proven correlation has been shown where females who have sex frequently are at a much lower risk for heart disease compared to women who do not engage in sexual intercourse frequently.
Unfortunately for the fellas, sexual activity seems to have the opposite effect. It actually improves the risk of heart disease with age, but way more research is needed to get consensus on this front (11).
This lowered risk of heart disease partially stems from lowered blood pressure and better stress responses.
11. Sex Also Reduces Your Blood Pressure
We previously discussed that having intercourse allows your body to release less stress hormone in response to negative stimuli. These hormones include cortisol and epinephrine. And, their decrease is partially responsible for the reduction in your blood pressure as a result from increased sexually activity (12).
That said, when it comes to lowering your blood pressure, masturbation doesn’t seem to have the same effects as having sex with your partner.
Researchers notes that when individuals masturbated rather than having partner to partner intercourse their systolic blood pressure went up 14 mmHg higher on average than those who had penetrative intercourse with a partner (12).
Similarly, the inhibition of stress hormones was also higher when an individual has partner intercourse. As such, having sex with a partner as opposed to with yourself helps greatly with lowering blood pressure both short-term and long-term.
12. Better Blood Circulation
Sexual intercourse gets your blood pumping better than a brisk walk. And, it not only helps your heart, but it improves the effects of poor circulation over time (13).
Obviously for gentlemen and their partners poor blood circulation will have negative impacts on sexual health, performance, and frequency. As such, by getting your hearts pumping, areas that were suffering from poor circulation will have more blood getting pushed through them.
The improvements in circulation you experience from the physical activity of intercourse can lower risks of cardiovascular disease and better your health in numerous ways.
However, it is worth noting that If you suffer from poor circulation that is severe, it is important to discuss this issue with your primary care physician. Doing so will help you find out if you will reap the benefits of sex for better blood circulation.
13. It Can Cut Cancer Risk
Frequent sexual encounters can decrease the risk of prostate cancer for men even as they age. This is according to a decade long scientific study that tracked men’s health and the number of times they experienced ejaculation per month (14).
While recording the results may have felt gross, it did come up with some useful information. The researchers observed that individual who had the most frequent ejaculations had the lowest prostate cancer risk.
This risk reduction partially stems from the release of sex hormones during and after intercourse that help regulate proliferation.
That said, we can’t still make the same conclusion for women. So far, the same decrease in cancer risk for ovarian or breast cancers has not been observed yet. As such, further testing will need to be done to determine if ladies can cut their risks of these types of cancers with frequent intercourse as well.
14. You’ll Live Longer
Everyone wants to live the longest life they can. And, while other healthy habits like proper diet, sleep and exercise are sure to improve longevity, a satisfying sex life can help you live longer too (15).
Interestingly, mortality risks were 50% lower in a group of participants that reported very frequent sexual encounters ending in orgasm. In contrast, the group that experienced comparatively less frequent orgasm had a statistically significant higher mortality (15).
This enhanced longevity was studied in men alone. But, it can likewise be generalizable to women in some sense because of the health benefits sex provide to you.
With the improved heart health, lower blood pressure, lower cancer risk, and all the other positive benefits sex can provide men and women with, it is apparent that a healthy sex life is key to a longer, healthier life (11, 12, 13, 14, 15).
What Happens to Your Body When You Stop Having Sex
Now that you’re aware of what regular sex can do for your health, you may also want to know what happens when you stop having sex. Does it affect your body in any way? And, are these effects positive, negative or a mix of both?
Here they are.
1. Wet Dreams
Everyone who is in the sexual period of their life has experienced an erotic dream or two. And, you have probably woken up confused about the cause of these dreams. While you would think that these dreams are due to your sex life, it’s more likely caused by a lack of one (20).
In fact, research has shown that when you have no sex or less frequent sex the number of wet dreams you have goes up, even ones you don’t remember increase.
The good news is that wet dreams are perfectly healthy. In fact, about 8% of your dreams involve ideas about sex. And, around 4% of both women and men experience orgasm when they have erotic dreams.
That said, having sex more frequently is a way to curtail these dreams. And, if you don’t happen to have a partner, masturbation can likewise help lessen the number of wet dreams you have (20).
2. Erectile Dysfunction
If you don’t use it, you can lose it. This is actually true for the gentlemen out there. Lack of sexual activity can actually lead to erectile dysfunction.
In fact, research shows that middle aged and older men who had infrequent intercourse (less than once a week) were twice as likely to experience erectile dysfunction compared to individuals of the same age who had sex at least one time per week (19).
As such, the protective effects of intercourse from erectile dysfunction should be enough to convince you that a healthy sex life is important to health not only for men but also for women.
3. Weaker Vaginal Walls
Why did we mention women above?
That’s because when you don’t use your muscles, they become weak. And, that includes the muscles that help strengthen your vaginal wall.
When you start having infrequent sexual encounters or stop having sex all together, the muscles surrounding the vaginal walls work less. As a result, this weakens the muscle (18).
Though it may not seem like much, weaker vaginal walls can make it more difficult for you to reach orgasm when you do have sex again. And, it can contribute to incontinence in the older population (18).
As such, if you’re not having regular sex, it may be a good idea to do exercises that contract the vaginal muscles. This can help strengthen them even when you are going through a period of sexual inactivity.
4. Reduced Sex Drive
It’s also worth noting that the effects aren’t just physical. That’s because lack of sex lowers your libido as well.
Thus, whenever you go through a period where you abstain from having sexual intercourse, you may notice that during that time you may not be as interested in sex as you used to be when you were more sexually active. This is due to the decrease in sex drive your body experiences (17).
This is why people who have sex frequently are actually the ones who have stronger desire for more sex. And, it is also why someone experiencing a “dry spell” often feels a lack of sexual desire.
This decrease in libido is partially attributed to the lower levels of androgen hormones like testosterone and estrogen when an individual is sexually inactive (17).
5. You’ll Feel Down More Often
Another interesting thing about sex is how it affects your mood. Research shows that couples who have stopped having sex or are having far less sex than they used to are at higher risk of depression.
This is in part due to the decrease of oxytocin released by their bodies. Because more oxytocin is released during sex and orgasm, the reduce sexual activity results in lower levels of the hormone in your body (9).
The antidepressant effect of oxytocin is apparent whenever we feel happier after decadent desserts, a great workout, or a passionate encounter. So, when we have less of this “feel-good” hormone released, it can make you feel down more often than not (9).
But, it doesn’t stop there. Research shows that when couples experience more depression as a result of their notable decrease in sexual activity, it also increases the risk of discord within the relationship (16).
6. It May Affect Your Relationship
When couples start having little to no sex whether it’s from internal dysfunction, depression or distance, it can negatively impact the relationship between the two individuals. This can lead to an increase in spousal issues (16).
In fact, research shows that when an individual is experiencing sexual problems, like low libido or difficulty reaching orgasm, their partner can start to feel alienated or undesirable. Not only do those feelings of undesirability and alienation cause tension within the relationship, it causes the individuals have intercourse less frequently making matters worse.