Regardless of your age, orientation, or relationship status, it’s normal for sexual activity to go in waves. There may be times when you’re raring to go, and other periods when you’re just not that interested. Or perhaps days when you’d rather just take care of business yourself rather than bothering with anyone else.
Don’t worry if you’re not getting busy too often these days; it’s completely normal. In fact, whatever amount of sex you desire or feel comfortable with is the perfect amount. You should, however, be aware of some of the ways that a lack of lovemaking can alter your body – both physically and mentally. Here are some of the things that can happen to your body if you stop having sex for a while.
Your vagina changes
A lack of intercourse or stimulation can, unfortunately, cause the vaginal walls to weaken. Blood flow and the rush of estrogen during sexual pleasure helps keep the vagina elastic, so a lack of action can have the opposite effect. This is even more important as women get older and reach menopause, as the vaginal muscles naturally become thinner. Like any muscle, the vaginal and pelvic muscles involved in sex can weaken when they don’t get a regular workout.
Heart health could be affected
If you do not have sex regularly, you could have a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease. In addition to being a source of exercise, sexual intercourse helps keep your estrogen and progesterone levels in balance, which can lower your risk of heart disease.
Partnered sex appears to have some protective effect on cardiovascular health, especially in women. A 2016 study looked at the potential health benefits of sexual activity with a regular partner. This research found that sexually active women have a lower risk of cardiac events later in life. The researchers also measured blood pressure as one of the markers of heart health and found that older women who expressed satisfaction with their sex lives were less likely to have high blood pressure.
Brain function can decline
Recent research suggests that doing the deed regularly aids in the production of neurons in the brain, and therefore improves brain function. This can make an even bigger difference as you get older, and the production of neurons decreases. Overall, regular sex seems to be linked to improved memory, especially if you’re between the ages of 50 and 89.
Your immune system could take a dive
Regular sex improves the immune system and prepares the body to fight off illness by releasing endorphins. This means that having sex less often might result in more frequent illnesses, like the cold or flu. A study reported that saliva samples of college students who had regular sex were found to have higher concentrations of certain antibodies called immunoglobulin A, which fight the common cold. However, it’s all about striking a balance, as the study found that people who had sex more than twice a week had lower levels of immune cells than those who had no sex.
You might lose fitness
Sex typically burns about five calories a minute – about equal to a brisk walk. The body uses a bit more oxygen, too – about the same as digging in the garden or walking down the stairs. That may not seem like much, but it starts to add up over the long term. Also, because sex can improve your mental health, you might be more likely to engage in other types of exercise, like joining the neighborhood kickball team or going for a hike with your spouse.
Your mood could suffer
Having sex releases mood-enhancing substances like oxytocin and endorphins into the body. These neurochemicals can help manage the effects of anxiety or stress, and even help you sleep better. If you do not have sex regularly, your body may release these hormones less often, which might make it more difficult to cope with everyday stress. A 2006 study found that blood pressure reactivity to stress is better for people who recently had penile-vaginal intercourse than for people who had other or no sexual activity. Getting busy with your partner could help you deal with daily stress more effectively.
Your relationship could change
Sex bathes your brain in a biochemical “afterglow” that lasts about two days and helps to improve the bond between partners. Without it, you could lose some of the satisfaction of your relationship. A healthy, happy sexual relationship can help build trust and understanding between you and your partner.
The problem is, the longer you wait, the worse it gets. Yes, when it comes to your sex drive it seems it’s a case of “use it or lose it.” For some people who refrain from sex, they begin to feel more sluggish, with less vitality and hunger for sex. This results in a cycle of lower libido and less intercourse.
The benefits of a healthy sex life
Sex is not only pleasurable – it’s amazing for your health. The benefits of sex range from slashing stress levels to lowering your risk of illness. How would you like a stronger immune system or better sleep? Action between the sheets can help you get all of this and more. As part of a healthy relationship with yourself and your partner, aim to do more of whatever bedtime fun you enjoy.