Are you having good sex? According to a recent study, a lot of people aren’t. But what totally qualifies as good sex in the first place? Relationship experts will tell you that it varies significantly depending on the individuals having it. “Good sex is sex that happens with a frequency that is satisfying to both partners and includes activities that both partners find pleasurable,” explains Stephanie Buehler, MPW, PsyD, licensed psychologist and AASECT-Certified Sex Therapist at Hoag for Her Center for Wellness in Newport Beach and Irvine, CA. “It requires understanding one’s own sexuality and sharing that with a trusted lover, while being open to what one’s partner wants as well.”
While good sex doesn’t have to end in an orgasm, despite what TV shows and movies have impressed upon us, Dr. Buehler explains that it should end with an overall feeling that the experience was one worth having. In addition to the fact that good sex, well, just feels amazing, it’s also beneficial for your relationship, mood, and even your health. Here, are some surprising, and totally welcomed, benefits of good sex.
It’s a general marker of good health
If you’re able to have good, pain-free sex, chances are that you are in good health, says Nicole Prause, PhD, a neuroscientist researching human sexual behavior, addiction, and the physiology of sexual response and founder of Liberos LLC. Additionally, she points to research published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, which says more sex predicts fewer negative cardiovascular events in the future for women.
It’s good for your immune system
Sex is related to immune function, the network of cells, tissues, and organs in your body that work to protect it and keep it healthy. “According to research published in the Journal of Bacteriology, orgasm increases the activity of NK cells, which provide immune protection, without increases of hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal activity observed in response to stressors,” says Dr. Prause. She also points to another study published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology, which found that individuals who reported having had sexual activity in the past week also had longer telomeres, the caps at the end of each strand of DNA that protect our chromosomes, and therefore reported fewer symptoms of illness than those who did not have sex in the last week.
It counts as a workout
Good news for those who missed their workout yesterday but had great sex — it totally counts as cardio. It may not burn a ton of calories, but it does raise the heartbeat a bit and increases oxygen to the bloodstream, explains Dr. Buehler. “While having sex won’t take the place of going to the gym, it is a fun way to get a little boost in cardiovascular health.”
It boosts your memory
“Being able to continue to be sexually active is associated with continued good memory function,” explains Dr. Prause. “Further, continued sexual activity into older adulthood has been associated with better neuropsychological tests, specifically number sequencing and recall, suggesting that sexual activity may have the potential to improve or preserve cognitive functions.”
It brings you closer as a couple
Couples that have more sexual activity report that they feel more closely bonded with one another, as having someone to hold and caress brings a feeling of security and normalcy to the relationship. But not only does intimacy feel good, which draws you closer to the person you’re having sex with, it also releases certain reward chemicals in the brain, such as dopamine, and bonding chemicals like oxytocin. “Both of these chemicals create a feeling of well-being and satisfaction,” explains Dr. Buehler.
It makes you less stressed
If you’ve ever felt significantly more relaxed after sex, you know the powerful destressing benefits it provides. This is not just in your head, according to Dawn Michael, PhD, clinical sexologist, relationship expert and author of My Husband Wont Have Sex With Me: “Having a good sexual experience can be a wonderful stress release in which feel-good hormones are released,” she says. “The body and mind can let go and allow the orgasm to flow through the body.” Plus, oxytocin helps people to relax after orgasm and is one of the chemicals that makes men sleepy after sex, adds Dr. Buehler.