Yes, yes, yes … that was good for you!
Jun 07, 2022Your Health
Emily Jamea, Ph.D., is a sex therapist, author and podcast host. You can find her here each month to share her latest thoughts about sex.
I don’t know about you, but I love that things were once deemed indulgent but are now considered healthy. Dark chocolate? Hand it over. A glass of red wine? Yes, please! Good sex? Yeah, baby!
It seems that we’re gradually moving away from the puritanical ideology of abstinence and restraint and giving into the truth that, well … pleasure not just feels good, it’s good for us. The fact is, humans are hard-wired to seek pleasure. Our brains are designed for it.
It may seem easy to give in to the idea that chocolate and red wine are good for us, but many people still struggle to surrender to the idea that sex can not only be enjoyed for pleasure but is also a health-promoting activity.
Our culture has long shaped the attitudes and beliefs we have about sexuality, especially for women. For instance, lots of women grow up hearing that sex is something done “for a man” or “good girls don’t do that,” messages that don’t encourage you to enjoy your sexuality. Furthermore, sex has long been labeled a “risk” behavior, something that can cause unwanted pregnancy or STIs. Chances are you don’t remember your health class (assuming you were lucky enough to have one) covering anything about pleasure or the health benefits of sex.
In an effort to convince people that it’s okay to enjoy sex, scientists have started to investigate some of the health benefits of sex. It turns out that sex is not only good for our relationships and mental health, which in turn improve our physical health, but it also has many direct benefits to our physical health. Let’s take a look at the top 10 health benefits of sex.
1. Sex makes us happy
The mind and body are tightly linked. We know that having poor mental health puts us at risk for chronic physical conditions. Luckily, sex is wonderful for our mental health. To start, sex makes us happy. Several studies have investigated the correlation between sex and happiness over the past couple of decades. We know that the quality of the sexual experience is one of the strongest predictors of happiness, but what about quantity? One study found that the strength of the relationship between sex and happiness tapered off at once per week. In other words, if people pushed themselves to have sex more than once per week, they weren’t any happier. It’s likely that sex makes us happy in part because of the wonderful cocktail of neurochemicals that are released. Sex gives us a boost of dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin — all of which make us feel good.
2. Sex adds meaning to our lives
Good sex also seems to make our lives more meaningful and boost our mood. A 2017 study found that
people who had a positive sexual interaction were in a better mood the following day and also reported that their lives felt more meaningful.
3. Sex improves our relationships
Perhaps one of the strongest benefits is that sex has a positive impact on our romantic relationships. In other words, sexual satisfaction and relationship satisfaction are strongly linked, so much so that sexual satisfaction can even be used as a barometer for relationship satisfaction. Why should we pay attention to the importance of sex on romantic relationships? Well, evidence shows that people in healthy romantic relationships are generally less stressed, live longer and heal more quickly when ill.
4. Sex is good for the heart
While it shouldn’t be used as a replacement for regular exercise, studies show that sex is good for heart health. Middle-aged folks tend to worry more about activities that could lead to a stroke or heart attack, but sex shouldn’t be on your list of concerns. One study found that
sex is unlikely to lead to a stroke and may actually help prevent heart attacks.
5. Sex improves sleep
Millions of Americans struggle to get adequate shut-eye. That’s a shame because fatigue can be one of the biggest libido killers. But if you can muster the energy, new studies find that a good romp in the sheets may help you fall asleep faster and improve the quality of your sleep.
6. Sex improves bladder control
We underestimate the importance of pelvic floor health, especially for women. Weak pelvic floor muscles contribute to pelvic organ prolapse, sexual pain and incontinence, especially for postmenopausal women. Orgasms are one of the best things you can do for your pelvic floor health. Orgasms not only promote healthy blood flow to vaginal tissue, they also cause strong, pleasurable contractions of the pelvic floor muscles, which improve strength and tone.
7. Sex strengthens your immune system
Regular sex may help your body fight off disease. A recent study of 16,000 Americans found that people who had more frequent sex were less likely to contract Covid-19 and those who did had milder symptoms compared to the group who didn’t have sex.
8. Sex improves prostate health
Several studies have looked at the relationship between orgasm and prostate health in men. It seems that frequent ejaculation, about 20 times per month, can help lower men’s chances of developing prostate cancer. The theory is that ejaculation helps clear the prostate of cancer-causing agents.
9. Sex can help you forget your pain
Sex appears to act as a natural analgesic. It can be hard to get in the mood if you’re experiencing pain. But if you’re willing to try, sex may actually help you forget about your pain, at least temporarily. This is most likely because of the endorphins released after an orgasm. Endorphins act as a natural analgesic. So, skip the ibuprofen and try having an orgasm the next time you’re suffering from menstrual cramps or lower back pain.
10. Sex improves memory
In addition to the emotional and physical benefits of sex, it also seems to be good for the brain. One study found that sex improved memory and cognitive function in older adults, regardless of gender.
So, as you can see, sex is good for us!