5 major health benefits of sex — and how much sex is healthy
This article is a repost which originally appeared on Insider
Edited for content
- The benefits of sex include reduced stress and anxiety, increased libido, better quality sleep, improved immune system, and a lower risk of heart disease.
- A healthy sex life can have many short-term and long-term benefits, whether you have sex with a partner or masturbate.
- This article was medically reviewed by Jason R. McKnight, MD, MS, a family medicine physician and clinical assistant professor at Texas A&M College of Medicine.
A positive sex life can do wonders for your health. And finding what a healthy sex life looks like for you is about understanding what brings you satisfaction.
“Most of what we focus on is that sexual health and intimacy is based on consent, honesty, and mutual pleasure,” says Barb Depree, MD and founder of MiddlesexMD. “If they’re feeling respected and fulfilled it’s going to be healthy for them.”
Moreover, you don’t need to have sex with a partner to find these benefits — solo sex, or masturbation, can also reduce stress and improve overall health.
So whether by yourself or with a partner, here are five of the main health benefits of sex:
Sex can reduce stress and anxiety
Cortisol levels decrease after sex, according to The Journal of Sexual Medicine. This is the hormone that is responsible for the body’s stress response, and with less of it present, you’ll feel more relaxed.
Endorphins are another hormone released during sex. These are associated with increased feelings of pleasure, motivation, and energy. This means sex, like exercise, may be able to boost your mood if you’re feeling down.
“We know that people who engage in sex generally have less anxiety and stress,” Depree says.
Sex increases intimacy and libido
Oxytocin, known as the love hormone, is released during sex. It’s associated with increased feelings of trust and empathy — which is a key part of maintaining intimate relationships.
If you feel more connected to your partner, your desire to have sex — known as libido — may increase.
Stronger libido and intimacy with another person can provide the necessary support to keep yourself mentally and physically well.
Sex can help you get better sleep
The release of oxytocin will also help you fall asleep more quickly after sex.
“More specifically with orgasm for women, sex, in general, helps release oxytocin, which directly impacts the brain to encourage relaxation — and it’s actually a little sedating,” says Depree.
In fact, both men and women self-report better sleep after an orgasm, whether they achieve that with a partner or through masturbation.
In addition to oxytocin, prolactin levels increase after intercourse and orgasm, according to the International Society for Sexual Medicine. This hormone increases your feelings of sleepiness and relaxation, which can also make it easier for you to settle in for the night.
Sex may boost your immune system
In 2018, the Journal of Sex Research found a connection between sex with a partner and improved immune function.
Researchers compared sexually abstinent women with those who engaged in sex at least once a week and found that sexually active women had increased levels of immunoglobin A in their saliva. This antibody plays an important role in fighting off common types of sickness such as respiratory and gastrointestinal illnesses.
Additionally, some research has found that masturbation can boost immunity and improve overall health.
Sex can improve heart health
The act of sex is exercise. In fact, research has found that people burn an average of 85 calories during sex lasting roughly 30 minutes.
Exercise is healthy for many reasons, but it’s also one of the best ways to lower blood pressure and prevent your risk of heart disease.
According to Depree, sex has a direct impact on lower blood pressure, both because of the physical and mental health benefits of sex. Lower levels of stress and anxiety are also associated with lower blood pressure, and thus, a reduced risk of heart disease.
The bottom line
Overall, sex can have a wide range of benefits for your mental and physical health.
Sex reduces stress and anxiety, and can boost intimacy and feelings of connection with your partner. It allows you to get better sleep, burns calories, and may also help you fight off infection more effectively.
Over time, a healthy sex life may even reduce your risk of long-term illnesses, such as heart disease.