Why You Should Have Sex More Often

Emotional, Physical, and Relationship Benefits of Frequent Sex

There are many reasons to have sex more often, at least when it comes to quality sex in a supportive relationship. More frequent sexual activity is linked to physical benefits, such as lower blood pressure, emotional perks, such as reduced stress, and relationship benefits, such as greater intimacy and a lower divorce rate. But what do we mean by more often? How often do "average" couples make love each week, what's the ideal frequency, and what can you do to jumpstart your sex life?

Before diving in, it's important to note that an active sex life is sometimes impossible due to medical conditions. Yet couples can still maintain a strong, healthy relationship. In fact, looking at non-sexual ways to improve intimacy is invaluable even for those who can have sex on a regular basis.

How Often Should Couples Have Sex?

We mention having sex more often, but more often than what? What is average when it comes to having sex with a partner, and what affects these numbers? While there is not a magic number when it comes to the ideal frequency of sex, the results of a few studies can suggest a ballpark number.

What Is the Average?

According to a 2017 study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, the average adult has sex 54 times per year, or about once a week. The number is higher for younger couples, coming in at around 80 times yearly for those in their 20s, compared to an average of 20 times for couples in their 60s. Even though the frequency often decreases with age, sexual activity in older adults remains very important to many people. On average, married people have sex more often than those who are unmarried.

As far as the ideal frequency, a 2015 study found that general well-being is associated with sexual frequency, but only up to a certain point. Relationship satisfaction improved progressively from having no sex up to having sex once a week but did not improve further (and actually decreased somewhat) beyond this point.

This goal number is fairly consistent with the current average, but should be of concern with our increasingly busy lives. Looking at the frequency of sex in the 2010s, adults are now having sex 9 times per year less than in the late 1990s.

Emotional Benefits of Having Sex

There are many emotional and psychological benefits from making love that is strongly linked with overall quality of life. Some of these include:

Happiness

According to a 2015 study in China, more sex and better quality sex increases happiness (though unwanted sex lowers happiness).

Stress Relief

That many people deal with chronic stress is a given, and has been cited as a reason why adults are having sex less often. This may be a double whammy, as sex may be considered a stress management technique.

Our bodies secrete cortisol and adrenaline (epinephrine) as part of the stress response. These hormones (the fight or flight response), can lead to fatigue, high blood pressure, and much more. Sex can reduce the level of these hormones, with effects that can last well into the next day.

Improvement in Mood

It's not just an old wives tale that a good roll in the hay can improve mood. There are a number of chemicals our bodies release during sex that can affect how we feel. During sex, our brains release endorphins, "feel good" chemicals that can reduce irritability and feelings of depression. Another hormone, oxytocin (the "hug drug"), is released with nipple stimulation and other sexual activity. Similar to the effect it has on nursing mothers (oxytocin is responsible for the "let down" reflex in breastfeeding), oxytocin can create a sense of calmness and contentedness. Finally, orgasm leads to the release of yet another hormone, prolactin, that can aid in sleep.

Improved Self Image

Sex can boost self-esteem and lower feelings of insecurity, leading to a more positive attitude.

Physical Benefits of Having Sex

It's fairly intuitive that sex would improve emotional health, but there are a number of physical benefits as well. Some of these include:

Improved Physical Fitness

Sex is a form of physical activity, and we have any number of studies linking exercise with better health. According to a statement from the American Heart Association, sexual activity is equivalent to moderate physical activities such as walking briskly or climbing 2 flights of stairs. The movements associated with sex can tighten and tone abdominal and pelvic muscles. For women, this improved muscle tone translates to better bladder control. And the 200 calories burned in 30 minutes of sex, combined with the reduction in food cravings associated with the chemicals released during sex, can't hurt in a society with climbing obesity rates.

Better Immune Function

Being more sexually active also has positive effects on immune function. This translates to a lower likelihood of getting a cold or the flu.

Reduced Pain

The endorphins mentioned above do more than lead to a sense of well-being and calm, but appear to reduce pain (such as migraines and back pain) as well.

Cardiac Effects

Sexual activity (but not masturbation) has been linked with lower systolic blood pressure. Elevated blood pressure, in turn, is associated with an increased risk of heart disease, strokes, and more. It's thought that sexual activity helps dilate blood vessels, increasing the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the cells of the body while reducing blood pressure.

It's important to note that having sex can also promote a heart attack in those at risk, but having sex more often may help reduce this concern. While sex can precipitate a heart attack, and anyone at risk should talk to their doctor before having sex, a 2011 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that this risk is attenuated (diminished) in people who have high levels of regular sexual activity. In other words, and similar to other forms of physical activity such as running, infrequent activity could put a strain on the blood flow to the arteries supplying the heart, but regular activity may be protective.

Brain Effects

In the past, studies in rats found that more frequent intercourse was correlated both with better cognitive function and the growth of new brain cells. We are now learning that the same may be true in humans. A 2018 study looking at over 6000 adults found that having sex more often was associated with better memory performance in adults aged 50 and older.

Sexual Effects

The old adage "fake it till you make it" fits well under health benefits, as being more sexually active actually boosts libido and increases vaginal lubrication in women. Also for women, making love more often is associated with lighter menstrual periods and less bothersome cramps.

For men, while it was once thought that sex caused an increase in prostate cancer, a 2016 study found that men who had more ejaculations (21 or more per month) were less likely to develop the disease than men who had fewer (7 ejaculations or less per month). Since prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in men, this is worth noting.

Other Physical Effects

A number of other physical effects have been associated with more sexual activity, such as an improved sense of smell, healthier teeth, improved digestion, and that healthy skin glow related to an increase in the release of DHEA by the body.

Unsafe sex could tip the scale of benefits and risks in the opposite direction. Make sure you are familiar with safe sex practices before focusing on these many benefits.

Benefits of Sex on Your Relationship

Having sex often can benefit each of you individually, but can also help your relationship in a number of ways. Having regular sex in a monogamous relationship can increase your level of commitment and help you connect emotionally. Couples are more likely to stay together when they can express their love in this way, and the divorce rate is significantly higher for couples who don't. In addition to the social reasons, even the relational benefits of sex are assisted by the chemicals our body's make. The release of oxytocin, in addition to being calming, can contribute to bonding and greater emotional intimacy.

Dangers of Too Little Sex

In addition to missing out on the potential benefits, there are dangers from too little sex. We are wired from birth to crave the intimacy of sex, and lacking sex can lead people to look elsewhere. Having an active sex life can reduce the risk of temptation, and, sadly, too little sex is one of the reasons why married people cheat.

Jumpstarting Your Sex Life

The frequency of sex can, and often does, change over time, but that doesn't mean that it's a progressive downhill slide. If you're wondering if sex can ever be as good as when you were first madly in love, the answer is yes. It can even be better when you add in what you didn't have before: a stable loving relationship that's grown mature and intimate. That said, it can take work.

There are a number of ways to spice up your sex life, but looking at the non-sexual parts of your relationship is just as important. Is there a way to improve communication in your relationship? At risk of adding yet another adage, the biggest sex organ is between the ears. Increasing the frequency of sex without talking and connecting emotionally isn't likely to create a lasting improvement. Stress management is also important, and as noted, could be doubly worth your effort in time. If you're wondering how to get in the mood when you feel too stressed for sex, we have some tips, but early on you may have to just do it.

Just Do It!

According to therapist Michele Weiner-Davis in her book, The Sex-Starved Marriage: Boosting Your Marriage Libido, a Couple's Guide: "At first, many were understandably cautious about my Nike-style approach to their sex life; the 'Just Do It' advice ran counter to everything they had believed about how sexual desire unfolds ... I could often see the relief on people's faces when they learned that their lack of out-of-the-blue sexual urges didn't necessarily signify a problem. It didn't mean there was something wrong with them or that something was missing from their marriages. It just meant that they experienced desire differently." If you always wait for your level of desire to match that of your partner, you may be waiting a long time.

A Word from Verywell

There are obviously many benefits to having sex more often (or a minimum of once a week) in a loving and supportive relationship. That said, all is not lost in your relationship if you are unable to have sex this frequently, or at all, and your love can grow just as strong.

If you are able to have sex but not enough, ask yourself why. We offered some tips above, but sometimes seeing a sex therapist may be the best way to work through any issues you are having. Keep in mind that it could make a difference not just for your relationship, but for your own physical and emotional health as well.

Sources:

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Cheng, Z., and R. Smyth. Sex and Happiness. Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization. 2015. 112:26-32.

Dahabreh, I., and J. Paulus. Association of Episodic Physical and Sexual Activity With Triggering of Acute Cardiac Events. JAMA. 2011. 305(12):1225-1233.

Levine, G., Steinke, F., Bakaeen, G. et al. Sexual . Circulation. 2012. 125(8):1058-1072.and Cardiovascular Disease: A Scientific Statement From the American Heart AssociationActivity

Liu, H., Waite, L., Shen, S., and D. Wang. Is Sex Good for Your Health? A National Study on Partnered Sexuality and Cardiovascular Risk Among Men and Women. Journal of Health and Social Behavior. 2016. 57(3):276-296.

Magon, N., and S. Kalra. The Orgasmic History of Oxytocin: Love, Lust, and Labor. Indian Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism. 2011. 15(7):156.

Muise, A., Schimmack, U., and E. Impett. Sexual Frequency Predicts Greater Well-Being, But More is Not Always Better. Social Psychological and Personality Science. 2015. 7(4):255-302.

Rider, J., Wilson, K., Sinnott, J. et al. Ejaculation Frequency and Risk of Prostate Cancer: Updated Results With an Additional Decade of Follow-Up. European Urology. 2016. 70(6):974-982.

Twenge, J., Sherman, R., and B. Welk. Declines in Sexual Frequency Among American Adults, 1989 to 2014. Archives of Sexual Behavior. 2017. 46(8):2389-2401.

Yabiku, S., and C. Gager. Sexual Frequency and the Stability of Marital and Cohabiting Unions. Journal of Marriage and Family. 2009. 71(4):983-1000.

Weiner-Davis, Michele. The Sex-Starved Marriage: a Couples Guide to Boosting Their Marriage Libido. Simon & Schuster, 2004.

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