Sex feels good. While some religious groups argue it’s primarily for reproduction — and, yes, it does do that, too — but the truth is that there are many physical and mental health benefits of making love.
Increased heart rate and circulation go hand-in-hand with having sex. You remember the drill from Sex-Ed class: When we have sex, the blood vessels dilate, pumping up oxygen flow. This, in turn, nourishes our cells, increases our immunity, and warms our extremities. The heart gets to work out as well, reaping the same benefits that you would if you regularly sprinted.
“Making love is like any other form of aerobic exercise,” notes a paper from Harvard Medical School. “It elevates your heart rate and blood pressure and increases your heart’s demand for oxygen—especially in the 10 to 15 seconds when you reach orgasm. Studies in men have compared the cardiac exertion of having sex to that of climbing two flights of stairs.”
On the flip side, one of the first signs of cardiovascular issues in men is the inability to get an erection. Think of your sex life as the canary in the coal mine; you need good circulation to maintain it. If things start to go south in the bedroom, it might be an indicator of more serious health issues.
Happy Brain Chemicals
“Physical intimacy can trigger the release of chemicals in the brain including dopamine (which plays a major role in reward-motivated behavior, focuses attention, and generally increases motivation); endorphins (natural pain and stress fighters); and oxytocin (known as ‘the cuddle hormone’ which can trigger feelings of compassion),” notes Ryan Anderson Ph.D., in Psychology Today.
Sex, he explains simply, is an anti-depressant.
Orgasms are accompanied by a massive release of all three brain chemicals. When scientists took a look at a brain in love, guess what they see? High levels of dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin. It’s probably why many people refer to having sex as “making love.”
Meditation can lower stress levels, but making love can do it, too.
“There is evidence to suggest that being close to your partner (physically and emotionally) can soothe stress and relieve anxiety,” Anderson says.
When we are stressed, we can end up in cycles of worry and anxiety. During this time, our serotonin is low, which causes us to become even more anxious.
As Anderson notes, sex is the most natural way to release those good brain chemicals and raise serotonin levels, which all works to relieve a lot of stress, at least temporarily.
Bonding With Another Human
Humans are social animals and we need human contact, both physical and psychological. This is why quarantine and isolation have been so hard on so many people. Having sex is a great way to rebuild that connection.
Studies have shown that ventral to ventral contact causes oxytocin release.
“Engaging in social or sexual contact with your romantic partner may increase your oxytocin levels, creating a behavior loop,” notes Healthline. “The more time you spend with your partner, the more oxytocin you produce; the more oxytocin you produce, the more you may desire your partner.”
Bottom line? The more you do it, the better off you are.