For healthy, consenting adults, sex can be great or even mind-blowing. But getting busy with a partner can also have some legit benefits beyond our brainwaves. Read on for more reasons to get it on (as if we needed ‘em)!
This Is Your Body On Sex
The good feelings swirling around the brain during sexytimes are due to brain chemistry, specifically dopamine and opoid chemicals. But the goodness extends beyond our brains. Studies have found that regular sex can do way more than make us feel warm and fuzzy.
Wards off cold and flu. Researchers found that university students who engaged in sexual activity a few times a week had higher levels of immunoglobulin A — an antibody that helps fight infections and the common cold — in their saliva . Interestingly enough, the IgA levels were highest in couples who consistently had sex a few times a week, but lower in people who had no sex or lots of sex.
Reduces depression and stress. No need for chocolate: Some studies show that contact with semen during intercourse can act as an antidepressant for women . But don’t worry: Doing the deed has positive mental-health associations for everyone! In general, intercourse can make blood pressure less reactive to stress and reduce overall stress levels .
Boosts brainpower. A study on adult rats found that the sexually active rodents experienced an increase in neurons in the hippocampus — a part of the brain that stores memories — compared to their virginal rat buddies. Not only that, but researchers at the University of Amsterdam found that sexual encounters may improve people’s analytical thinking.
Improves overall physical fitness. If you’re looking for more motivation to hit the gym, consider this: Working out regularly tends to improve our sex lives, and having sex regularly can improve physical fitness. Everyone who’s ever watched an R-rated movie knows sexytime can be quite the cardio workout — in fact, half an hour of sex can burn more than 144 calories. Studies have also shown that exercising frequently can enhance sexual performance.
Relieves pain. Gettin’ frisky releases a bevy of hormones that can reduce pain. Oxytocin, the “cuddling hormone” that makes folks want to snuggle up after sex, reduces stress and promotes feelings of calm and wellbeing. Sex also releases serotonin, endorphins, and phenyl ethylamine, hormones that generate feelings of euphoria, pleasure, and elation — and make people forget all about that nagging sore muscle or back twinge. Other studies have shown intercourse can stop migraines in their tracks and reduce the uncomfortable side effects of rheumatoid arthritis.
Improves sleep. It’s a cliché that dudes pass out right after sex, but intercourse actually can help both men and women nod off. Feeling relaxed and comfortable are big factors in hitting the big O, so it makes sense that there’s a tendency to want to snooze right after. During and after sex, the brain releases powerful hormones (including norepinephrine, serotonin, oxytocin, and vasopressin), which can trigger the urge to cuddle or just pass out. Men are especially likely to zonk out because the prefrontal cortex — the part of the brain responsible for interpreting and responding to new information — slows waaaay down immediately after orgasm in males.
Enhances sense of smell. Oddly enough, spending some time between the sheets can help our noses do their job even better. After sexual intercourse, the body produces the hormone prolactin, which creates new neurons in the olfactory bulb — the part of the brain that controls how we understand and react to smells.
Makes us look younger. A little afternoon (or morning) delight doesn’t just make you feel great; it can actually make you glow! A Scottish study showed that loving, supportive couples who had intercourse three or more times a week appeared on average 10 years younger than their actual age. Orgasms trigger the release of the sex hormone estrogen in both men and women. Estrogen improves hair and skin quality, making people look more attractive .
Lowers blood pressure. High blood pressure puts pressure on the blood vessels, leading to damage and narrow, hardened arteries. The same effects that endanger the cardiovascular system can also cause erectile dysfunction in men (think about it for a second…) and reduced arousal and ability to achieve orgasm in women. Testosterone, a sex hormone power player for both ladies and gents, could be a solution. Studies have shown a link between low testosterone and high blood pressure, while the spikes in testosterone associated with sexual activity might help lower blood pressure  .
Decreases risk for heart disease. Good news, dudes! Studies show doing the deed actually reduces risk of stroke and coronary heart disease in men . According to the study, men who had sex once a month or less were 45 percent more likely to contract a cardiovascular disease than friskier fellows. The evidence suggested the men with better overall health had higher libidos and therefore more sex overall, which reinforced their healthy cardiovascular systems.
Regulates periods. Some athletic (hetero) lovemaking once or twice a week can, on a very basic level, make it less likely that Aunt Flow will show up unexpected. In one study, scientists found that women exposed to male sweat were calmer and more relaxed than the control group. These women also experienced smaller changes of levels of luteinizing hormone (which controls the menstrual cycle) in the blood. Getting’ jiggy with it also reduces stress, another contributing factor in keeping periods more regular.
Improves tooth health. This one’s a bit of a reach, but bear with us. In addition to sperm, semen contains minerals like calcium, magnesium, and zinc — which are also found in root canal fillings  . Zinc and calcium are also ingredients in most commercially available tooth rinses. We’ll let you do the math…
Fights prostate cancer. The link between frequent ejaculation and prostate health is still up for debate. According to some studies, regular sex “flushes out” any carcinogens lurking in the prostate gland, making it less likely to become cancerous . But a more recent study showed that very frequent sexual activity in young men (20s and early 30s) could actually increase the risk of developing prostate cancer . Meanwhile, frequent ejaculation in middle-aged or older (50+) men decreased disease risk . In other words, the verdict is still out on this one — though things look pretty good for the older gents among us.
Lowers risks during pregnancy. Pregnant ladies, time to get your groove on. Frequent sexual intercourse — and exposure to semen — can reduce the risk of developing a serious pregnancy complication called preeclampsia (which can cause swollen extremities, headaches, nausea, and even seizures). A protein found in semen, called HLG-A, can regulate women’s immune systems and lower the possibility of experiencing these complications .
Makes fertilization easier. For people trying to get a bun in the oven, there’s no such thing as too much “trying.” A study at an Australian fertility center showed that men who ejaculated daily for seven days had higher-quality sperm at the end of the week. The sperm’s rate of DNA fragmentation dropped from 34 percent to 26 percent, meaning it was heartier and more likely to fertilize an egg —probably because frequent sex (and ejaculation) means sperm spend less time in the testicular ducts and are less likely to be damaged over time.
Did any of these surprise you? Share in the comments below or get in touch with the author on Twitter @sophbreene.