The health benefits of sex extend well beyond the bedroom. Turns out sex is good for you in ways you may never have imagined. When you're in the mood, it just might help your health.
How does a juicy sex life do a body good? Let's count the ways. Here are 10 health benefits of sex — backed up by science.
1. Less Stress, Better Blood Pressure
Having sex could lower your stress, and your blood pressure.
That finding comes from a Scottish study of 24 women and 22 men who kept records of their sexual activity. The researchers put them in stressful situations, such as speaking in public and doing math out loud, and checked their blood pressure.
People who had had intercourse responded better to stress than those who engaged in other sexual behaviors or abstained.
Another study published in the same journal found that diastolic blood pressure (the second number in a blood pressure test) tends to be lower in people who live together and often have sex. And yet another study found that women who get lots of hugs from their partner tend to have better blood pressure.
2. Sex Boosts Immunity
Having sex once or twice a week has been linked with higher levels of an antibody called immunoglobulin A or IgA, which can protect you from getting colds and other infections.
So say scientists at Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. They studied 112 college students who kept records of how often they had sex and also provided saliva samples for the study. Those who had sex once or twice a week had higher levels of IgA, an antibody that could help you avoid a cold or other infections, than other students.
3. Sex Burns Calories
Thirty minutes of sex burns 85 calories or more. It may not sound like much, but it adds up: 42 half-hour sessions will burn 3,570 calories, more than enough to lose a pound. Doubling up, you could drop that pound in 21 hour-long sessions.
"Sex is a great mode of exercise," says Patti Britton, PhD, a Los Angeles sexologist. It takes work, from both a physical and psychological perspective, to do it well, she says.
4. Sex Improves Heart Health
Having sex may be good for your heart. A 20-year-long British study shows that men who had sex twice or more a week were half as likely to have a fatal heart attack than men who had sex less than once a month.
And although some older folks may worry that the sex could cause a stroke, that study found no link between how often men had sex and how likely they were to have a stroke.
5. Better Self-Esteem
Boosting self-esteem was one of 237 reasons people have sex, collected by University of Texas researchers and published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior.
That finding makes sense to Gina Ogden, PhD, a sex therapist and marriage and family therapist in Cambridge, Mass., although she finds that those who already have self-esteem say they sometimes have sex to feel even better.
"One of the reasons people say they have sex is to feel good about themselves," she says. "Great sex begins with self-esteem…If the sex is loving, connected, and what you want, it raises it."
Of course, you don't have to have lots of sex to feel good about yourself. Your self-esteem is all about you — not someone else. But if you're already feeling good about yourself, a great sex life may help you feel even better.
6. Deeper Intimacy
Having sex and orgasms boosts levels of the hormone oxytocin, the so-called love hormone, which helps people bond and build trust.
In a study of 59 women, researchers checked their oxytocin levels before and after the women hugged their partners. The women had higher oxytocin levels if they had more of that physical contact with their partner.
Higher oxytocin levels have also been linked with a feeling of generosity. So snuggle up — it might help you feel more generous toward your partner.
7. Sex May Turn Down Pain
Here's another thing the love hormone, oxytocin, does: It boosts your body's painkillers, called endorphins. So if your headache, arthritis pain, or PMS symptoms seem to improve after sex, which may be why.
In one study, 48 people inhaled oxytocin vapor and then had their fingers pricked. The oxytocin cut their pain threshold by more than half.
8. More Ejaculations May Make Prostate Cancer Less Likely
Frequent ejaculations, especially in 20-something men, may lower the risk of getting prostate cancer later in life, some research shows.
For instance, a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that men who had 21 or more ejaculations a month, were less likely to get prostate cancer than those who had four to seven ejaculations per month.
Of course, that study doesn't prove that ejaculations were the only factor that mattered. Many things affect a person's odds of developing cancer. The researchers did take that into consideration, and the findings still held.
9. Stronger Pelvic Floor Muscles
For women, doing pelvic floor muscle exercises called Kegels may mean will enjoy more pleasure — and, as a perk, less chance of incontinence later in life.
To do a basic Kegel exercise, tighten the muscles of your pelvic floor, as if you're trying to stop the flow of urine. Count to three, then release.
10. Better Sleep
The oxytocin released during orgasm also promotes sleep, research shows.
Getting enough sleep has also been linked with a host of other health perks, such as a healthy weight and better blood pressure. Something to think about, especially if you've been wondering why your guy can be active one minute and snoring the next.
By Kathleen Doheny, Reviewed by Marina Katz, MD