For many people, sex is a fun activity that’s filled with excitement and pleasure. But, did you know that sex can benefit your health too? Let’s take a look at some of the ways sex can improve our physical, mental, and relational health.

Cardiovascular Benefits for Women

Sexual activity may improve cardiovascular health in women. The American Heart Association (ACA) actually considers partnered sex a form of “mild to moderate physical activity,” which is equivalent to a short, brisk walk or climbing two flights of stairs. For women, a rewarding sexual relationship with a partner has been shown to decrease the risk of hypertension in the future and promote cardiovascular health. Sex, especially orgasm, can be a fun way to get your heart pumping!

It’s important to note that sex can lead to negative cardiac events, too. If you are concerned about your health or have been diagnosed with any sort of cardiovascular disease or condition (e.g. heart disease, high blood pressure, etc.), please check with your doctor before engaging in sexual activity to make sure it is safe for you to do so.

Relieves Stress

Several studies have found that sex can positively affect mood and decrease stress. One study found that partnered sex lowers stress and negative mood while improving positive mood. Ironically, better mood and lower stress often leads to more sex! What a fun cycle to be in!

Sex and orgasms also release a ton of feel-good hormones, like oxytocin (“the cuddle hormone”) and dopamine (“the pleasure hormone”). These can lead to intense feelings of pleasure, bonding, affection, and relaxation. The release of these hormones may also inhibit cortisol (“the stress hormone).

Sex also signals the body to release endorphins, which can relieve pain and stress while improving mood. It’s not just the sex itself that leads to stress reduction–studies have found that positive physical touch can decrease stress. This can also be achieved through other forms of physical intimacy, such as cuddling or massage!

Improved Sleep

While we’re talking about the abundance of feel-good hormones, the hormones that are released after orgasm can lead to intense feelings of relaxation, which may lead to better sleep.

Prolactin is one of these hormones, and one study found that partnered sex leads to 400% more prolactin release than masturbation. Orgasm also leads to a decrease in activity in certain regions of the brain, which can help us to feel more calm and relaxed. Have you ever felt sleepy after sex? Now you know why!

Boosts Immune System

Some studies have found that sex may lead to a stronger immune system. A team of researchers examined the levels of IgA in college students’ saliva. IgA is the most common antibody in our immune system, and it’s considered the “first line of defense” in fighting illness. The study found that participants who had sex 1-2 times per week had 30% more IgA in their saliva than those who had sex less frequently.

While more research needs to be conducted in order to replicate these findings and better understand how sex affects our immune system, this study’s results are an exciting start!

Improve Relationship

Safe and positive sexual experiences with a partner have been found to lead to increased intimacy, connection, trust, commitment, and overall relational satisfaction. Sex can be a great way to bond and have fun with our partner. It’s also a great way to give and receive love and affection. Each of these things can lead to a more fulfilling relationship.

Note: It’s important to remember that “safe” and “positive” are the keywords here. Consent is not optional.

Research has consistently found that sex can lead to a ton of of physical, emotional, and relational benefits. While sex has many benefits and can even improve your health in some ways, it’s important to remember that sex also comes with risks. Remember to practice safe sex and to communicate with your partner–consent is mandatory.

It’s also important to note that sex is much more than just penile-vaginal penetration, and while orgasms can be great, not everyone feels the need to have an orgasm during every sexual encounter. Allow yourself to let go of expectations and experiment with what you and your partner enjoy. There is no “one size fits all” in sex. The goal is to have a fun, satisfying, and safe experience with your partner.