We know that sex feels good. But is there more to it than just pleasure? Actually, yes. When it comes to fooling around, it turns out the body reaps a slew of benefits—from an improved immune system to reduced stress. In fact, when you’re with a wonderful, supportive sexual partner, the health benefits of sex can be life-changing. Forget an apple a day—a romp in the hay may definitely keep the doctor away.
We know you didn’t need another reason to get busy with your partner, but HelloGiggles turned to sexperts Dr. Laura Deitsch, resident sexologist at Vibrant, Planned Parenthood’s sex toy e-tailer, and Dr. Jess O’Reilly, host of the Sex With Dr. Jess podcast to find out about all the many ways sex does a body good.
It makes us happy
This is pretty much a no-brainer, but there’s a good reason why sex makes us feel oh-so good. Dopamine, adrenaline, serotonin and oxytocin are released in the brain while having sex, and specifically when an orgasm is achieved, says Deitsch.
Dopamine is the “feel-good hormone” associated with bliss, euphoria, motivation, and concentration. Adrenaline causes the heart to race, the legs to feel weak, and brings on a heightened state of physical and mental alertness. Oxytocin is known as the “love hormone” or “cuddle hormone” because it is released when people snuggle or bond socially. Serotonin is the happy hormone that regulates mood, lifts depression, and improves appetite, sleep, and sexual desire (to name a few).
Basically, if you need a little pick-me-up, go get some.
It lowers blood pressure
“One study found that those men and women who had recently had intercourse responded better and had lower blood pressure when put into stressful situations—in this case, public speaking engagements,” O’Reilly tells HelloGiggles. “So if you have a big presentation or have to perform in public, having sex the night before might fight off those nervous jitters.”
It’s a natural pain reliever
“Neurochemicals released during sex can act as a natural painkiller, which has been shown to combat headaches and reduce lower back pain,” says Deitsch. “The increased blood flow to the nether regions during sex and orgasm can also calm menstrual cramping.”
Adds O’Reilly, “Alongside increased levels of oxytocin, the release of endorphins during sexual activity has the potential to alleviate cramps, headaches and other body pains. Oxytocin has actually been shown to increase pain thresholds by more than 50%.”
It can help to cure the common cold
In the midst of cold and flu season? Get busy and forget Vitamin C (okay, you should still take Vitamin C).
“Sexual intercourse has been linked with decreased risk of the common cold or flu,” says O’Reilly, citing a study of university students that found that those who had sex one to two times per week had higher levels of immunoglobulin A, an antibody that can fight off infection.
It makes you smarter
A study found that 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 (the same study found regular sexual experience also reduced anxiety-like behavior). Additionally, researchers found that sex helps us focus on the present and on concrete details, which enhances analytical thinking.
It reduces stress
“Exercise is a well-known stress reliever, and sex, a combination of exercise and pleasure, offers a powerful punch of stress relief,” says Deitsch. “One study found that daily sex for two weeks spurred cell growth in the hippocampus, the part of brain that manages stress levels.”
It’s no wonder then that frequent sex has been linked to a significantly reduced risk of heart disease and heart attack in men.
It helps hiccups disappear
Have a case of the hiccups? Instead of getting someone to scare you or eating an awful lot of peanut butter, try having sex. A 2000 case report noted that a 40-year-old man made his “intractable hiccups” vanish for 12 months following sexual intercourse. A prior study found that “digital rectal massage” also worked to get rid of hiccups.
It improves your complexion
Put away your face masks and bronzer, ladies. Both Deitsch and O’Reilly say that sex helps you achieve clearer skin.
Adds Deitsch, “During sex, the heart rate increases, sending blood coursing through your veins and giving skin an oxygen boost, which can be seen in a brighter complexion and post-sex glow. Sex also reduces cortisol levels, the stress hormone, which can improve collagen production.”
Also, according to Deitsch, regular sex can also regulate oxytocin, prolactin, and estrogen, which has been reported to prevent menstrual acne flare-ups.
It improves sleep
There’s a good reason why you feel sleepy after a roll in the hay. “The happy chemicals released during an orgasm—dopamine, adrenaline, serotonin, and oxytocin—help to induce restful, lasting sleep,” says Deitsch. “A recent study also found that 64% of study subjects indicated better sleep after having sex with a partner and experiencing orgasm before bed. This is both a result of the happy chemicals released and the beneficial distraction from mobile devices and nagging worries.”
And if that’s not a good enough reason to get hot and heavy with your partner before bedtime, O’Reilly adds that a good night’s sleep “is linked with a range of other health benefits: healthy body weight, improved concentration, healthy skin, longevity, low/healthy blood pressure and heart rate.”
It leads to more sex
And probably the best news of all: sex leads to more sex.
“There is something to be said for momentum,” says Deitsch. “Having sex can make you feel sexier and therefore want to have sex more.”
Plus, the more sex you have, the healthier you’ll be—so it’s a win-win situation. Can’t complain about that.