Sexual Health

10 Surprising Health Benefits Of Sex

When it comes to a long-awaited evening of lovemaking making, few of us stop to consider the actual health benefits it may provide.

For many, a healthy sex life is about reproduction, instant gratification, pleasure, and growing intimacy.

The impact of sex on our mental health and physical health is often the last thing on our minds.

Yet, research has shown that there may be more benefits of a healthy sex life than simply pleasure.

Here are 10 benefits of sex that you can enjoy

1) Lowers stress levels

Hit by busy schedules and long working hours, stress and anxiety seem an inevitable part of life. While it’s easy to accept this as the norm, it’s essential to carve out some quality time for yourself and your partner.

What’s more, as a session of sex can actually help to release some of that built-up tension. A 2019 study reviewed the effects that intimacy has on cortisol levels, a hormone in the body that responds to stress. The result showed that intimacy helped to lower cortisol levels in both men and women.

A further study focused on female students, looked at the relation between sex and stress in daily life.

The participants completed questionnaires for 3 months, just before a big exam. The findings indicated that higher self-reported stress was associated with lower levels of sexual activity and a decrease in relationship satisfaction.

It doesn’t even have to be a full session of lovemaking, hugging, or holding your partner’s hand can provide stress relief. In one experiment, couples who held hands for 10 minutes, followed by a 20-second hug, had healthier reactions to stress.

Compared with couples who did not touch, the huggers had:

2) Improves Feelings Of Sexual Intimacy

For many people, emotional intimacy plays a significant role in maintaining sexual desire in romantic relationships.

Oxytocin, commonly known as the “love hormone,” helps to build feelings of love and trust, letting you connect with your partner on a deeper level.

A 2017 study published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin showed that there’s a connection between frequent sexual activity and overall wellbeing. It also shows that sex predicts affection and affection, in turn, predicts the frequency of sexual activity.

3) Improves Mood

Not only can sex prove the ultimate stress reliever, but it can also improve your mood.

Let’s be honest; having sex with your partner generally gives you a big confidence boost. You feel loved, desired, and all in all, healthier, and happier.

What’s more, science backs this up. When you have sex, it triggers the release of oxytocin, endorphins, and other “feel-good” hormones, which not only reduce stress levels but leaves you feeling happier.

A study of 30,000 American men and women between 1989 and 2012 found that having sex at least once a week in a committed relationship was enough to make people happy.

Although sex isn’t a cure for depression, some research has suggested that it may help to alleviate symptoms. Feel-good hormones, such as dopamine, endorphins, and oxytocin and chemicals released during sex, can temporarily reduce symptoms of mental health challenges.

4) Lowers Blood Pressure

High blood pressure (Hypertension) is a prevalent condition, affecting around 103 million U.S. adults. Left untreated, it can result in n several serious complications, including an increased risk of a heart attack and stroke.

Stress, among other factors, is a significant contributor to rising blood pressure levels. As discussed, regular sex can effectively lower stress levels and improve mood, which in turn could play a role in reducing blood pressure.

A 17-year study published in The American Journal of Cardiology found that men who had sex at least twice a week were 45% less likely to develop heart disease.

Furthermore, sex is a form of exercise, which in itself can help to lower blood pressure.

A metanalysis looked at the data from 194 clinical trials that reviewed the impact of antihypertensive medications on systolic blood pressure. They also looked at 197 clinical trials comparing the effect of exercise of blood pressure. In total, these trials collected information from 39,742 participants.

The researchers found in the case of people with high blood pressure; exercise was as effective as most medications for blood pressure.

5) Improves Sleep

Have you ever had a passionate sex session and soon fallen asleep with a smile of contentment? That may be as sex has been shown to help aid a goodnight’s sleep.

A 2019 cross-sectional survey examined the perceived relationship between sexual activity and subsequent sleep in the general adult population.

The study involved 778 participants (442 females, 336 males) who volunteered to complete an anonymous online survey. The results showed that sex that ended with an orgasm was associated with the perception of favorable sleep outcomes.

This may be as after your body reaches orgasm, it’s hit with a hormone that promotes relaxation, known as prolactin.

Research shows that sexual activity triggers the production of significantly more of the hormone prolactin than masturbation does.

6) Boosts Immune System

More sex might equal fewer sick days. A 2004 study by Pennsylvania’s Wilkes University asked U.S. college students how often they had sex each week. They then compared the levels of immunoglobulin A, an antibody that plays a crucial role in the immune function of mucous membranes.

The researchers found that students who had frequent sex, defined as one to two times per week, had higher levels of immunoglobin A (IgA) in their system than others.

However, more research is needed before it can be proved that weekly sex helps your immune system.

You should still do all the other things that make your immune system happy, such as:

  • Enjoy a healthy diet

  • Exercise regularly

  • Get enough sleep

  • Keep up with your vaccinations

  • Use a condom if you don’t know both of your STD statuses.

7) Form of Exercise

As touched upon earlier, sex counts as a form of physical activity. Having sex uses more muscles than you realize. So, if your looking for a fun way to burn some extra calories heading to the bedroom might do the trick.

A study of 20 young, healthy couples found that they burned an average of 85 calories for each half-hour romp in bed.

Of course, this depends on the length of time and level of intensity, with the author’s study concluding that “the level of intensity that is exerted from sexual activity could be higher to that of walking at 4.8 km/h but lower to that of jogging at 8 km/h.”

According to the American Heart Association, sexual activity is equivalent to moderate physical activities such as walking briskly or climbing two flights of stairs. 

A strong pelvic floor is important for avoiding incontinence, something that affects primarily women, but also men throughout their lives.

Good sex is like a workout for your pelvic floor muscles. When you have an orgasm, it causes contractions in those muscles, which strengthens them.

8) Reduces The Risk Of Prostate Cancer

According to a report published in JAMA, men who reported having more than 20 ejaculations per month were 33% less likely to develop prostate cancer.

These measured ejaculations included sexual intercourse, nocturnal emissions, and masturbation.

A further study of 2,338 men also came to a similar conclusion that frequent ejaculation could lower risk of prostate cancer. This study found that men who averaged 4.6 to seven ejaculations a week were 36% less likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer before the age of 70 compared to men who ejaculated less than 2.3 times a week on average.

9) Reduces Pain

Struggling with a painful headache? Sex might just be the answer. During sexual intercourse, oxytocin, a hormone that reduces pain, is released. In fact, for some women experiencing menstrual cramps, physical intimacy can help to alleviate pain.

In a study published in the Bulletin of Experimental Biology and Medicine, participants who inhaled oxytocin vapor and then had their fingers pricked were shown to feel half as less pain as those who did not inhale any oxytocin.

10) Enhances Memory

As you get older, you may find that your mind starts declining, and remembering the small thing, like where you left your keys, becomes a challenge. The good news is that regular sex may help to improve brain function.

A 2010 animal study discovered a link between sexual activity and neuron growth. The researchers found that rats that had sex for two weeks demonstrated more neuron growth.

Following this, a further animal study, again on rats, found that daily sexual activity was linked not only to generating more new neurons but also to enhanced cognitive functioning.

In terms of human studies, a 2018 study, published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior found that more frequent sexual activity and greater emotional closeness during partnered sex were associated with better memory performance.

Conclusion

Sex offers a wide range of health benefits for both men and women, from reducing stress and improving intimacy levels, to more surprising benefits such as enhancing brain function and reducing prostate cancer risk.

That being said, it is essential to note that an active sex life and sexual arousal is sometimes challenging or impossible due to health conditions. In such cases, couples can still maintain a healthy and intimate relationship through oral sex and non-sexual means.

If you are looking to improve your sexual health and physical intimacy, working with a licensed sex therapist can also help.

Sources

  1. Huseyin Naci, Maximilian Salcher-Konrad, Sofia Dias, Manuel R Blum, Samali Anova Sahoo, David Nunan, John P A Ioannidis. How does exercise treatment compare with antihypertensive medications? A network meta-analysis of 391 randomised controlled trials assessing exercise and medication effects on systolic blood pressure. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 2018; bjsports-2018-099921 DOI: 10.1136/bjsports-2018-099921
  2. Flynn, T, Gow, A. (2015). Examining associations between sexual behaviours and quality of life in older adults . Age and Ageing. 44 (5), p823–828.
  3. Grewen KM, Anderson BJ, Girdler SS, Light KC. Warm partner contact is related to lower cardiovascular reactivity. Behavioural Medicine, 2003;29:123-30.
  4. Debrot, Anik & Meuwly, Nathalie & Muise, Amy & Impett, Emily & Schoebi, Dominik. (2017). More Than Just Sex: Affection Mediates the Association Between Sexual Activity and Well-Being. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. 014616721668412. 10.1177/0146167216684124.
  5. Bodenmann, G., Atkins, D. C., Schär, M., & Poffet, V. (2010). The association between daily stress and sexual activity. Journal of Family Psychology, 24(3), 271–279. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0019365
  6. Ditzen, B, Germann, J, Meuwly, N, Bradbury, T, te al.. (2019). Intimacy as Related to Cortisol Reactivity and Recovery in Couples Undergoing Psychosocial Stress. Psychosomatic Medicine. 81 (1), p16–25.
  7. Hall SA, Shackelton R, Rosen RC, Araujo AB. Sexual activity, erectile dysfunction, and incident cardiovascular events. Am J Cardiol. 2010;105(2):192–197. doi:10.1016/j.amjcard.2009.08.671
  8. Lastella M, O’Mullan C, Paterson JL, Reynolds AC. Sex and Sleep: Perceptions of Sex as a Sleep Promoting Behavior in the General Adult Population. Front Public Health. 2019;7:33. Published 2019 Mar 4. doi:10.3389/fpubh.2019.00033
  9. Charnetski, C. J., & Brennan, F. X. (2004). Sexual Frequency and Salivary Immunoglobulin A (IgA). Psychological Reports, 94(3), 839–844. https://doi.org/10.2466/pr0.94.3.839-844
  10. Loprinzi PD, Frith E. The Role of Sex in Memory Function: Considerations and Recommendations in the Context of Exercise. J Clin Med. 2018;7(6):132. Published 2018 May 31. doi:10.3390/jcm7060132
  11. van Lankveld J, Jacobs N, Thewissen V, Dewitte M, Verboon P. The associations of intimacy and sexuality in daily life: Temporal dynamics and gender effects within romantic relationships. J Soc Pers Relat. 2018;35(4):557–576. doi:10.1177/0265407517743076

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