The health benefits of sex and intimacy

Can (safe) sex actually improve your health? What are the health benefits of intimacy? Sex isn’t just fun. Regular, consensual, and healthy sexual activity is part of a healthy lifestyle. And sex isn’t just beneficial for building connection and intimacy in a relationship. The physical act of intercourse coupled with the release of hormones can produce better physical and emotional health for those who engage in safe, consensual sex with a trusted partner. Giving and receiving physical affection, such as hugs and kisses, also can reduce stress and increase happiness.

Sex can improve your health

The more penile-vaginal sex heterosexual couples have, the more both partners seem to have better mental health and improved satisfaction with sex life, relationship, and life. However, other sex acts (such as oral sex, anal sex, masturbation) might not have the same benefits. 

There’s definitely a relationship between having an active sex life and being physically healthy, although which comes first is still unclear. Your sex life when you’re younger might predict the frequency of your sexual activity as you age. This is important because being sexually active and satisfied in middle and older age is linked to better health.

Sex is physical activity

Sexual activity with your partner can provide health benefits similar to taking a short, moderate-paced walk. You probably can burn 70–150 calories per 30-minute sex session. So for extra calorie burn, don’t skip the foreplay!

Sex can protect you from getting sick

Sex increases antibody Immunoglobulin A (IGA), which can boost your immune system. People who have sex at least once a week have more IGA than people who have sex less often. 

Sex and intimacy release oxytocin

Intimacy, physical touch, friendships, and sex release oxytocin, a hormone that provides many health benefits.

Oxytocin is involved in every stage of a couple’s relationship, from dating to sex to childbirth. Your body releases high levels of it during the early parts of a relationship (the “honeymoon phase”) to strengthen the connection. It’s also released during sex, mostly at orgasm, to enhance feelings of pleasure and bonding. So, sex can improve intimacy and togetherness, which in turn can result in more sex.

Oxytocin has other health benefits, such as improving sleep. Good intimacy and sex can improve sleep by releasing oxytocin, which in turn reduces stress. And less stress means you can fall asleep easier and stay asleep throughout the night. Sex also can improve blood pressure, with some help from oxytocin. 

Outside of sex, oxytocin has a role in trust, intimacy, and other social interactions. For example, oxytocin might help teams perform better, which is essential for deployed warriors who need to function as a unit.

Debrief

Sexual intercourse, other sexual activities, intimacy, and even friendships can improve overall health, life, relationship satisfaction, sleep, and immune functioning. In addition, the hormones released during relationships intimate and sexual activities have health benefits that extend into many parts of life. However, remember to practice safe sex! Risky, unsafe sex can potentially undo these health benefits. Talking openly about safe sex practices, as well as about your sexual needs, and regularly confirming consent from your partner can boost your chance of reaping the health benefits of sex.