Sex and intimate togetherness make life more beautiful – and have a surprising number of health benefits.
Physical closeness is a basic human need that wants to be lived out. Even the Corona crisis does not change that. Sex is an important part of it – for biological, psychosocial and, not least, health reasons. Research shows why an active sex life makes us fitter, healthier and happier.
1. Physical fitness
When we have outdoor sex, the whole body is involved: Our heart beats faster, we breathe deeper, we release hormones like testosterone, adrenaline and oxytocin. A single touch sends thousands of electrical impulses to our brain. Numerous muscles are active.
According to a Canadian study, 25 minutes of sexual activity is comparable to a light cardio workout. The participating couples wore special wristbands that indicated that they burned an average of 85 kcal in bed. So sex can’t keep up with jogging or a HIIT workout – but it’s a good complement to regular exercise. For women, regular intercourse contributes to strong pelvic floor muscles.
2. Healthy heart
A healthy heart beats unevenly. This means that with a pulse of 60, the interval between two heartbeats is not exactly 1 second. Variations of more than 100 milliseconds are quite normal in the resting pulse. The so-called heart rate variability (HRV) tends to be lower – that is, the heartbeat is more regular – when the body is in stress mode.
There is much evidence to suggest that an active sex life and higher HRV are linked. People with higher HRV also seem to be fitter and more resistant to stress. Our sexual behaviour may even have a positive effect on blood pressure: Participants in one study had lower blood pressure levels in an acute stressful situation if they had sex the night before.
3. Stress reduction
Regular sex is healthy for the psyche: we tend to be happier, more balanced and less stressed. Researchers found that couples who are intimate with each other release less cortisol in stressful situations. Cortisol is a hormone that our body releases more of under stress.
During coitus, but also when cuddling, we produce hormones such as oxytocin, which appeal to our reward centre and provide a sense of well-being. These “happiness hormones” can also make us less sensitive to stress.
4. Strong immune system
Our immune system is not just a passive system that fends off outside threats. There is growing evidence that our immune response proactively adapts to external conditions. This includes our social behaviour and sexual activity.
One study suggests that sex stimulates the production of immunoglobulin A (IgA) in our bodies. IgA is an important antibody secreted by the mucous membranes where it fights off pathogens. A healthy balance had an optimal effect: Study participants who had sexual intercourse 1 to 2 times a week had the best IgA levels.
It seems obvious that having more sex increases fertility: after all, the chances are higher that one sperm out of millions will make it to the egg. What is new, however, is that sex outside of the fertile days can also promote pregnancy.
Research at Indiana University has shown that sexually active women have increased chances of becoming pregnant – even outside the time around ovulation. This is because regular sexual intercourse triggers physiological processes that prepare the body for pregnancy.
6. Long life
Do people who have sex live longer? Some long-term studies suggest that a fulfilling sex life can actually increase life expectancy – for both women and men. Those who are sexually active seem to be less affected by severe coronary heart disease – one of the leading causes of death in the world. One study found that frequent orgasms (2 or more per week) can reduce the risk of death in men by up to 50%.