If only your doctor recommended it more.
Sex gets talked about as a guilty pleasure, that thing we do out of pure desire when we could be spending our time productively or improving ourselves. But instead of feeling guilty, it's worth remembering: Sex is actually good for us.
That sweat you're breaking, that feeling of relaxation afterwards, it's all part of the complicated physical chemistry at work in our bodies when we're fooling around.
"It's a very complex picture," Debby Herbenick, associate professor at Indiana University and author of The Coregasm Workout told Mic, as to how sex affects our health. But when done regularly, consensually and safely, sex can be great for our bodies and minds. Here are 14 ways sex is good for us.
1. A healthy sex life could mean a healthy immune system.
Short on sick days and hoping to stave off that cold? Get thee to the bedroom.
Carl J. Charnetski, author of Feeling Good Is Good for You: How Pleasure Can Boost Your Immune System and Lengthen Your Life, told Mic that according to his research, "having sex two to three times per week accounted for a 33% higher level of immunoglobulin A, the most prevalent innate antibody we have." Another study found that sexual arousal and orgasm (in this case from masturbation) increased the number of white blood cells, which help the body fight off infection.
It's no wonder there are those who claim sexually active people take fewer sick days.
2. Getting down helps you hold it in.
For women who have bladder issues, doctors will tell you that a having strong pelvic floor muscles is key. This probably means dutifully doing those Kegel exercises every day. But another way to strengthen pelvic muscles, especially for women? Sex, and lots of it.
"Any muscles that are being used a lot will have good blood flow. Muscles that don't do anything get weak, atrophied and frail," Julia Di Paolo, a pelvic-floor physiotherapist, told Vice. "You get contractions when you're having sex, so you're actually using your Kegels ... it's the most wonderful exercise for the pelvic floor."
3. You should probably call it "sexercise."
When you're planning your daily workout, is sex on the agenda? It could be. Research out of the Université du Québec à Montréal measured the energy expended during sex versus during running. The results? We burn enough calories during an average sex session for it to be considered moderate exercise.
As Patti Britton, author of The Art of Sex Coaching, explained, during sex, "we're releasing and contracting all the muscles within the body." A romp may not replace your weekly kickboxing session, but if you're looking for a quick way to get that heart rate up and burn some calories, feel free to try a few of these positions.
4. Have a headache? Have some sex.
A 2013 study from the University of Muenster in Germany surveyed over 300 migraine sufferers, and the researchers found that of those who'd ever gotten busy while fighting a headache, 60% "reported an improvement of their migraine attack."
And as for, say, period cramps? Orgasms can help that, too.
5. Getting kinky can make you a better communicator.
"Because doing BDSM means communicating with your partner, usually at an intense level because you are negotiating guidelines and discussing fantasies in depth, it gives you a greater sense of trust in your partner, and that leads to a greater sense of intimacy with them, and that, ultimately, is very psychologically balancing," Gloria Brame, a sex therapist specializing in BDSM and author of Sex for Grown-Ups, told Mic previously.
6. Into BDSM? You may be less neurotic.
A 2013 study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine found that those who practice BDSM may be less anxious and neurotic than their non-BDSM counterparts. It's not that BDSM itself is a de-stressor; lead author of the study, psychologist Andreas Wismeijer, believes that those who engage in BDSM tend to be more aware of what they want and have done the "hard psychological work" that's conducive to mental health.
As Gloria Brame previously told Mic, those who are drawn to BDSM are "wired this way."
7. If you want to have a good day, start it off with morning sex.
While morning breath may be a bit of a deterrent, and some men want it more than women, a morning session may put you in the right mindset for the day.
"To the extent that it's a form of exercise and, at orgasm, is linked with the release of prolactin and oxytocin, then it can help people to feel more bonded and satisfied" all day long, Herbenick told Mic.
8. Having trouble sleeping? Have some sex.
After a long day of stress and anxiety, sex can be the last thing on our minds. But if you want a good night's sleep, sex might actually be the best possible activity. The oxytocin produced by sex, combined with increased cortisol production, puts us into a state of optimum relaxation. Oh, and in women, the sex-fueled boost in estrogen can have a "positive impact" on REM sleep, according to a 2008 Journal of Women's Health study.
Plus, sex leads to sleep leads to more sex. As a recent study from the Journal of Sexual Medicine found, "One extra hour of sleep was linked to greater sexual desire. Not only that, but women who had one more hours of sleep were 14% more likely to have sex with their partner the next day," reported Mic's Kate Hakala.
9. If you want better skin, sex may be the answer.
"When you have sex, you're bathing the skin in anti-inflammatory molecules such as oxytocin and beta endorphins," which have anti-aging benefits, dermatologist Amy Wechsler told the Huffington Post.
Oh, and sex increases blood circulation, according to Brame, and the extra oxygen can brighten your skin's appearance. Yes, the "glow" might just be real.
10. It can be a self-esteem boost.
Yes, people have sex to boost their self-esteem — and that doesn't have to be a bad thing. As Gina Ogden, a sex therapist and marriage and family therapist, told Mic, "With a really good sexual relationship or sexual adventure, what happens is old constricting messages evaporate."
Casual sex, if approached with a certain mindset, can be an ego boost, too. A 2014 study from researchers at Cornell University and New York University found that those with unrestricted "sociosexuality" (willingness to engage in sexual activity outside a committed relationship) can actually feel better about themselves after casual sex.
"One-night stands can make you feel great and powerful – like Wonder Woman!" Ogden said.
11. Your prostate may thank you.
Men, if your partner is worried about your health, maybe suggest a quickie. One recent study out of the University of Montreal found, based on a survey of over 3,000 men, that having sex with over 20 women was linked to a 28% lower risk of prostate cancer. While the results aren't conclusive and merely correlative, researchers have at least one possible explanation for the link: frequent ejaculation.
12. Bust your stress with a little sex.
The drama of relationships can stress us all out at the best of times, but sex might make you better equipped to handle it. In a small study, researchers at the University of Paisley in Scotland found that people who had sex (penis-in-vagina intercourse, specifically) had lower reactions to stress tests, thanks to those wonderful endorphins.
As Charnetski told Mic, "Having sex can be stress-reducing, which is good for everything."
13. If you're looking to keep your mind sharp, sex could be the answer
Recent studies of rats and mice found that sexual activity can foster the creation of new neurons in the portion of the brain where long-term memories are stored. Sex can also improve your brainpower: Contrary to popular belief, orgasms increase blood flow to the brain, making you sharper. "Great sex wakes you up and allows you to be a much finer receiver and conductor of stimulation in the world around you," Ogden told Mic.
14. Sex makes your relationship stronger.
It's all about the physical contact, which prompts the release of the "happy chemical," oxytocin. The chemical is said to help promote healthy relationships and bonding (which may be why cuddling is so great). That increased intimacy can draw us closer to our partners.
As Ogden put it, "Sex and relationships are part and parcel. Sex enriches. It's an essential ingredient for a fully delicious relationship."