Going Deeper : The Health Benefits of Sex
Sex and sexuality are a part of life. Aside from reproduction, sex can be about intimacy and pleasure.
Sexual activity, penile-vaginal intercourse or masturbation, can offer many surprising benefits to all facets of your life: physical, intellectual, emotional, psychological, and social. Sexual health is more than avoiding diseases and unplanned pregnancies. It’s also about recognizing that sex can be an important part of your life.
How can sex benefit your body?
This study1 suggests that sex can be a good cardiovascular exercise in younger men and women. Though sex isn’t enough exercise on its own, it can be considered light exercise. Some of the benefits you can get from sex include:
- lowering blood pressure
- burning calories
- increasing heart health
- strengthening muscles
- reducing your risk of heart disease, stroke, and hypertension
- increasing libido
People with active sex lives tend to exercise more frequently and have better dietary habits than those who are less sexually active. Physical fitness may also improve sexual performance overall.
Stronger immune system
In a study of immunity2 in people in romantic relationships, people who had frequent sex (one to two times a week) had more immunoglobulin A (IgA) in their saliva. People who had infrequent sex (less than once a week) had significantly less IgA.
IgA is the antibody that plays a role in preventing illnesses and is the first line of defense against human papillomavirus, or HPV.
But those who had sex more than three times a week had the same amount of IgA as those who had infrequent sex. The study suggests that anxiety and stress can possibly cancel out the positive effects of sex.
Your body releases oxytocin, also called the “love” or “intimacy” hormone, and endorphins during orgasm. The combination of these hormones can have the same effect as a sedative. Better sleep can contribute to: a stronger immune system, a longer lifespan, feeling well-rested, having more energy during the day.
How sex benefits all genders
A recent review1 found that men who had more frequent penile-vaginal intercourse (PVI) had less risk of developing prostate cancer.
One study found that men who averaged having 4.6 to 7 ejaculations a week were 36 percent less likely to receive a prostate cancer diagnosis before the age of 70. This is in comparison to men who reported ejaculating 2.3 or fewer times a week on average.
For men, sex may even affect your mortality. One study that had a 10 year follow-up reported that men who had frequent orgasms (defined as two or more a week) had a 50 percent lower mortality risk than those who had sex less often.
Although results are conflicting, the quality and health of your sperm may increase with increased sexual activity, as some research suggests.
Having an orgasm increases blood flow and releases natural pain-relieving chemicals. Sexual activity in women can: improve bladder control, reduce incontinence, relieve menstrual and premenstrual cramps, improve fertility, build stronger pelvic muscles, help produce more vaginal lubrication, potentially protect you against endometriosis, or the growing of tissue outside your uterus.
The act of sex can help strengthen your pelvic floor. A strengthened pelvic floor can also offer benefits like less pain during sex and reduced chance of a vaginal prolapse. One study shows that PVI can result in reflexive vaginal contractions caused by penile thrusting.
Women who continue to be sexually active after menopause are less likely to have significant vaginal atrophy, or the thinning of vaginal walls. Vaginal atrophy can cause pain during sex and urinary symptoms.
Sex is an important part of life and overall well-being. In relationships, orgasms play a significant part in bonding. Physical and emotional benefits like reduced risk of heart disease, improved self-esteem, and more can come from having sex.
You can still have similar benefits without sex. Engaging in other pleasurable activities like exercising, interacting with a pet, and having a strong network of friends could potentially offer the same benefits. Sex is just one way of improving your quality of life.
But if sex is part of your life, due to a relationship or desire, it’s important to be able to communicate and experience sexual satisfaction. You may find relief and an increase in happiness when you take the time to have sex.