Updated: Jan 31
The effects of arousal and orgasm on the body are not fully understood. Scientists try to make sense of it by looking at which areas of the brain are stimulated during sexual activity
or how physiological factors can change, but it is still difficult to explain the full effects of sex on the body. Looking at specific health outcomes, however, can allow us to get a greater understanding about how sexual activity can impact health and wellbeing. Research has shown that sex can benefit our health in many ways. Specifically, it has positive effect on the immune system response, improves cardiovascular health and increases longevity.
1. Immune system
Our immune system is extremely complex. It can be stimulated and altered by many factors. The impact of sexual activity and orgasm on the immune system is not completely understood. One study discovered that sexual arousal and orgasm increased the total number of immune cells in the blood, specifically natural killer cells (NK cells). These cells are our fighter cells, providing rapid response to virus infected cells as well as tumor formation. More NK cells means a quicker response and shortened recovery time to viral infections in the body.
2. Cardiovascular health
Multiple studies have found improvement in cardiovascular health with intercourse. Three studies monitored resting heart rate variability (HRV) with sexual activity. They found that an increase in sexual intercourse frequency increased HRV. Higher HRV is a predictor of lower death rates and is associated with better mood, attention, self-regulation, and responsiveness to emotional experiences.
Another cardiovascular marker studied was the blood pressure stress response. Participants were instructed to prepare and perform a 5-minute speech to an unsupportive audience and their blood pressure was monitored. Those who had sex at least once in the previous 14 days had significantly less blood pressure increase and a faster recovery time.
The relationship between sex and cardiovascular health may be partially attributed to the parasympathetic stimulation of the vagus nerve with intercourse. The vagus nerve is the main driver of the parasympathetic nervous system, calming the heart. The effect on the heart may also be attributed to the touch, closeness, and connection that comes with sexual contact.
The effect of sexual activity on mortality is also interesting to many. One study did a 10-year follow up for mortality of 918 men who were classified according to frequency of sexual intercourse. Another similar study with a 14-year follow up on 2543 men and women. The classifications for both included those who had sex less than once a month, those between once a week and once a month, and those two or more times a week. Both studies found the more sex one was having, the longer they lived.
It is clear there are many benefits associated with sexual activity on the immune system, cardiovascular health and increasing lifespan. Additionally, sex has been shown to increase our pain threshold, improve mood, increase fertility, stimulate full-term labour, and prevent cancer. Understanding the benefits of sexual activity on the body can encourage people to work on their own sexual wellness in order to obtain a better quality of life. Desire can be affected by many factors. Changes in hormones, neurotransmitters, stress, attraction, pain and grief can all affect desire. Working with a naturopathic doctor can help discover and overcome your personal barriers to sex.
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