By Dr. Mercola
It's often suggested — in media, movies, and the like — that the more sex you have the happier you'll be. But is this really true? Researchers from Dalhousie University in Canada conducted a series of experiments to find out.
The first study revealed the association between sexual frequency and well-being is only significant for people in relationships. The next two studies involved only those in committed relationships and found the "magic number" to be once per week.1
While having sex more often — four times a week or more — wasn't a bad thing, it didn't lead to additional happiness compared to having sex once a week. For couples who may feel obligated to have sex more often just because they think they should, this study takes off some of the pressure.
Sex Makes People More Satisfied in Their Relationship
The researchers revealed that sex leads to increased happiness among couples because it boosts feelings of satisfaction with the relationship. Postdoctoral researcher and lead author Amy Muise told CNN:2
"For people in relationships, their romantic relationship quality is one of the biggest predictors of their overall happiness … Having sex more than once a week might not be enhancing that (relationship connection), although it is not bad."
That being said, it could also be that couples who have sex once a week or more were happier in their relationships to begin with — the study couldn't distinguish which came first, the sex or the happiness (and maybe it doesn't matter).
Further, there's certainly no rule that states once a week works for everyone. Some couples may thrive on more and some on less. Most often, sex therapist Vanessa Marin suggested that couples would like to have more sex, simply because their busy schedules make it difficult to find the time.
For this, you can try scheduling it into your calendar, although this is also a personal matter. Some people like to plan their intimate time while others prefer spontaneity. Again, there's no right answer — do what works for you and your partner.
If You're Happy With Your Sex Life, There's No Need to Rock the Boat
If you and your partner are both satisfied with sexual frequency, there's no need to change things up. In fact, one study found that when couples were "assigned" to double their frequency of intercourse, it decreased happiness and sexual enjoyment.3 It's likely that doing the deed became more of a "chore" in this case.
As lead study author George Loewenstein, a professor of economics and psychology at Carnegie Mellon University, told CNN, "Being told you should do something always makes it less fun."4
If, however, you're not sure where your "Goldilocks zone" is for sex, why not try an experiment? Try having sex three times a week for a month, then try once a week for a month, and keep adjusting until you find the magic number for you and your partner. It's likely that the number will change from month to month too.
Sex Is Good for You — Really Good
Like letting the sun warm your skin on an early spring day or sinking your teeth into a healthy food you also happen to love, it's always a bonus when something that feels good is good for you — and that's certainly the case with sex.
Beyond the emotional benefits, you can also expect to gain the following benefits from a healthy sex life.
1. Improved Immunity
People who have sex frequently (one or two times a week) have significantly higher levels of immunoglobulin A (IgA).5 Your IgA immune system is your body's first line of defense.
Its job is to fight off invading organisms at their entry points, reducing or even eliminating the need for activation of your body's immune system. This may explain why people who have sex frequently also take fewer sick days.6
2. Heart Health
Men who made love regularly (at least twice a week) were 45 percent less likely to develop heart disease than those who did so once a month or less, according to research published in the American Journal of Cardiology.7
3. Lower Blood Pressure
Sexual activity, and specifically intercourse, is linked to better stress response and lower blood pressure.8
4. It's a Form of Exercise
Sex helps to boost your heart rate, burn calories and strengthen muscles, just like exercise. Research revealed that sex burns about 4 calories a minute for men and 3 for women, making it (at times) a 'significant' form of exercise.9 It can even help you to maintain your flexibility and balance.
5. Pain Relief
Sexual activity releases pain-reducing hormones and has been found to help reduce or block back and leg pain, as well as pain from menstrual cramps, arthritis and headaches.
One study even found that sexual activity can lead to partial or complete relief of headache in some migraine and cluster-headache patients.10
6. May Help Reduce Risk of Prostate Cancer
Research has shown that men who ejaculate at least 21 times a month (during sex or masturbation) have a lower risk of prostate cancer.11 This link needs to be explored further, however, as there may have been additional factors involved in the association.
7. Improve Sleep
After sex, the relaxation-inducing hormone prolactin is released, which may help you to nod off more quickly. The "love hormone" oxytocin, released during orgasm, also promotes sleep, which may be especially beneficial if you prefer to be intimate right before bedtime.
8. Stress Relief
Sex triggers your body to release natural feel-good chemicals, helping to ease stress and boost pleasure, calm and self-esteem. Sexual intercourse also helped people respond better when subjected to stressful situations like speaking in public.12
9. Boost Your Libido
The more often you have sex, the more likely you are to want to keep doing it. There's a mental connection there but also a physical one, particularly for women.
More frequent sex helps to increase vaginal lubrication, blood flow and elasticity,13 which in turn make sexual activity more enjoyable.
10. Improved Bladder Control in Women
Intercourse helps to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles, which contract during orgasm. This can help women to improve their bladder control and avoid incontinence.
You can boost this benefit even more by practicing Kegel exercises during sex (a Kegel squeeze is performed by drawing your lower pelvic muscles up and holding them up high and tight, as if you're trying to stop a flow of urine).
11. Increase Intimacy and Improve Your Relationship
Sex and orgasms result in increased levels of the hormone oxytocin - the "love" hormone — that helps you feel bonded to your partner.
Hugging Is Good for You Too
If you don't have sex regularly, you can still reap many similar benefits from other forms of intimate contact — like hugging and kissing. Like sex, hugging increases levels of the 'love hormone' oxytocin. This, in turn, may have beneficial effects on your heart health and more.
One study found, for instance, that women had lower blood pressure following a brief episode of warm contact with their partner.14 A 20-second hug, along with 10 minutes of hand holding, also reduced the harmful physical effects of stress, including its impact on your blood pressure and heart rate.15
This makes sense, since hugging is known to lower levels of stress hormones like cortisol. Hugging also activates the orbitofrontal cortex in your brain, which is linked to feelings of reward and compassion.16,17 A 10-second hug a day can lead to biochemical and physiological reactions in your body that can significantly improve your health. According to one study, this includes:18
✓ Lower risk of heart disease
✓ Stress reduction
✓ Fight fatigue
✓ Boost your immune system
✓ Fight infections
✓ Ease depression
If one time a week is ideal for sex, how many times a week is ideal for hugs? It could be the more the better. According to research published in the British Journal of Theatre Nursing:19
" … four hugs per day was an antidote for depression, eight hugs per day would achieve mental stability and twelve hugs per day would achieve real psychological growth."
What's in a Kiss?
Like hugging and sex, kissing prompts your brain to release a happy elixir of feel-good chemicals like serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin. This isn't only important for your happiness, it also may also help to strengthen your relationship. Kissing has also been shown to boost your immune system and reduce allergic responses in people with skin or nasal allergies.20
Separate research also revealed that people who spent six weeks making kissing a priority with their partners reported significant decreases in their levels of stress. In addition to improvements in stress, the kissing participants also reported greater relationship satisfaction and improvements in total cholesterol.21
Another study even found that men who received a passionate kiss before they left for work earned more money.22 This suggests the kiss (and perhaps the happy home-life that goes along with it) makes people happier, boosts self-esteem and, ultimately, makes for a more productive workday.
Could Your Sex Drive Use a Boost?
If you've ruled out physical issues and/or relationship problems, to boost your libido naturally and help restore harmony to your intimate life a change to your lifestyle may be in order. The strategies that follow may help to enhance your sex life by boosting your sex drive.
1. Reduce, with the plan of eliminating, grains and sugars in your diet. It is vitally important to eliminate sugars, especially fructose. High levels of sugar in your bloodstream can actually turn off the gene that controls your sex hormones.23
2. Eat a healthy diet, like the one described in my nutrition plan, which will help to normalize your insulin levels. This simple measure has a profound influence on every area of your health, including your sex life.
3. Optimize your vitamin D levels, ideally through appropriate sun exposure as vitamin D levels increase testosterone levels, which may boost libido.
4. Exercise regularly. Make sure you incorporate high-intensity interval training exercises, which also optimize your human growth hormone (HGH) production.
6. Be sure to get plenty of high-quality, restorative sleep.
7. Consider choline and vitamin B5 supplements.The neurotransmitter that triggers the sexual message, in both men and women, is acetylcholine (ACH). With too little ACH, sexual activity goes down. One way to safely and effectively enhance ACH levels in your body is to take choline supplements (1,000-3,000 mg) and vitamin B5 (500-1,500 mg).
8. Stress can dampen your libido and make sex the last thing on your mind. Taking control of your emotions by learning the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) can really help in this area to re-ignite your sex life.
EFT is a psychological acupressure technique that can help you effectively address your stress-related thoughts and leave you feeling calmer and more able to face your challenges, whatever they may be, so you're able to focus on more enjoyable pursuits.
9. Try maca root. Maca, a rainforest herb, has been used for centuries as a libido booster, and it's also used to relieve menopausal symptoms in women. Research shows maca root may alleviate antidepressant-induced sexual dysfunction in postmenopausal women, and the herb was well tolerated with few side effects.24