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10 Surprising Health Benefits of Sex After 50

Research shows that regular sexual activity comes with some unexpected health benefits

Older Man Kissing Hand
Leland Bobbe / Getty Images

A quick romp in the hay doesn’t just feel good. It turns out that sex has advantages that go way beyond simple pleasure.

In fact, sexual activity with or without a partner is linked to some impressive, research-backed health benefits, says Kate Thomas, director of clinical services at The John Hopkins Sex and Gender Clinic. And, she noted, it’s not just for young people.

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“Sex can be hugely beneficial for people as they get older, not only for the reported medical health benefits but for our psychological and emotional health,” Thomas says. “It can strengthen our relationships, promote self-esteem and improve our sense of identity.”

Here are 10 other surprising health benefits of sex.

1. Boosts immunity

Hopping in the sack on a regular basis may help boost your immune system and protect you from getting sick, studies show.

Researchers at Wilkes University in Pennsylvania found that college students who had sex one to two times a week had significantly more immunoglobulin A in their systems than people who had sex less often. Immunoglobulin A is an antibody in the mucosal membranes that is considered a first-line defense against infection.

Another study published in 2021 found that having sex more than three times a month seemed to offer a protective effect against COVID-19.

Researchers aren’t sure exactly why sex seems to drive up immunity, but Thomas said it may be because sex increases blood flow, helping to distribute antibodies throughout the body.

2. Improves heart health

Some men worry that sex could trigger a heart attack, but studies show that’s exceedingly rare, especially if you exercise regularly. In fact, the latest research shows that regular romps with your partner are linked to a lower risk of heart problems. 

A large study published in The American Journal of Cardiology found that men who had sex at least twice a week were 50 percent less likely to die of heart disease compared with men who had it once a month. In another study, British researchers followed 914 men for 20 years and found that as sexual activity increased, the risk of stroke and heart attack decreased.

For women, a large analysis revealed that those who are satisfied with their sex lives are less likely to have peripheral artery disease, a condition that narrows the arteries and makes stroke more likely.

Researchers believe the protective effects stem from a variety of factors, including lower stress levels, improved sleep and the stronger connection to your partner that has been linked to sex.

3. Strengthens the pelvic floor

A study published in International Urogynecology Journal found that sexually active women were significantly more likely to have a strong pelvic floor compared with those who were not sexually active.

That’s probably because every time you have sex, you give the muscles in your nether regions a workout, Thomas says. When you’re aroused, muscle tension in the pelvic region naturally increases, Thomas explains. Then, during orgasm, all the muscles contract, just as they would during a Kegel exercise.

Having strong pelvic floor muscles gives you control over your bladder and helps prevent incontinence. In men, a weak pelvic floor can contribute to erectile dysfunction.

Another bonus to strengthening your pelvic floor: Researchers say it may make sex even more pleasurable.

4. Relieves headaches and other pain

Before you reach for an over-the-counter pain reliever, try an orgasm. Whether you have headaches, arthritis or another type of chronic pain, sex may offer relief, Thomas says.

One large observational study found that 34 percent of the patients had experience with sexual activity during an attack; out of these patients, 60 percent reported an improvement of their migraine attack and 33 percent reported worsening. Some patients, in particular male migraine patients, even used sexual activity as a therapeutic tool.

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Another study found that vaginal stimulation in women elevated their pain tolerance by about 40 percent, while orgasm pushed it up nearly 75 percent.

Experts credit the release of feel-good hormones including endorphins, the body’s natural pain reliever.

5. Helps with symptoms of menopause

Regular sexual activity can help counteract the physical changes, such as vaginal dryness and atrophy, that come with menopause, says Amir Marashi, a gynecologist practicing in Brooklyn, New York.

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Aging doesn’t have to put a damper on your sex life. Here are 10 steps for better sex after age 50.

Sex stimulates blood flow and helps keep vaginal tissues healthy, toned and stretchy. In fact, studies show the more you have sex, the healthier your tissues will be.

“Any organ that you bring more blood supply to, you keep it more youthful,” Marashi says. “A lot of patients come to me for hormonal replacement therapy. Before all of that, I say, ‘Make sure you get regular, consistent, good orgasms, because that’s going to help a lot.’ ”

6. Reduces the risk of prostate cancer

For men, several studies have revealed a link between frequent orgasm and a lower risk of prostate cancer. The prostate holds some of the fluid that is released at ejaculation.

One Harvard study of almost 32,000 men found that the more a man ejaculated, the lower his risk of the cancer. In fact, those who ejaculated more than 20 times per month reduced their prostate cancer risk by about 20 percent, compared with those who ejaculated four to seven times per month.

While the reason for the link isn’t entirely clear, experts believe that frequent turnover of the fluids in your prostate is likely good for you. “That way, you flush out more of the potential carcinogens that are there,” Thomas says. “Our system is designed to be flowing and replacing itself.”

7. Boosts mental health and relieves stress

A large body of research has found that sexual activity and intimacy are linked to lower rates of depression, anxiety and feelings of isolation, and that regular sexual activity can boost happiness and mood. One of the more recent studies published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine found that anxiety and depression scores were significantly lower in those were sexually active during the COVID-19 lockdown compared with those who weren’t.

“One of the top benefits of sex, particularly in the acutely stressful world in which we’re living these days, is its ability to immediately melt away built-up stress,” says Paul Hokemeyer, a licensed marriage and family therapist based in New York City.

When you have sex, your body releases a cocktail of hormones and neurotransmitters that “help calm us down and make us feel safe and secure in the world,” Hokemeyer explains.

8. Burns calories

Getting busy with your partner isn’t going to replace a session on the treadmill, but it does count as physical activity.

In a study published in the journal PLOS one, Canadian researchers found that men burned 101 calories on average during a 24-minute session, while women burned 69 calories. “These results suggest that sexual activity may potentially be considered, at times, as a significant exercise,” the authors wrote.

Of course, how many calories you actually burn depends on how long your session lasts and how vigorous it is. But even if your romp lasts only six minutes, the typical length of a session, that’s still better than doing nothing at all. The latest research on physical activity reveals that getting your heart rate up even for just a few minutes conveys health benefits.

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9. Helps you sleep

If you tend to doze off after sex, there’s a scientific explanation. During sex, the body releases hormones such as oxytocin and prolactin that induce pleasant and relaxing feelings, Marashi says. Sex also reduces cortisol, which is associated with stress.

“This can cause someone to feel relaxed and drowsy and make it easier for them to fall asleep,” Marashi says.

In one study, about 63 percent of participants reported that it was easier to fall asleep after orgasm, and 71 percent of participants reported better sleep quality after orgasm. Despite common perceptions that men are the ones who roll over and start snoring after sex, there was no gender difference in the results.

If you struggle with sleep, try sex in lieu of a nightcap or sleep medication, Marashi advises.

10. Extends your life

You’re never too old to have sex, researchers say, and making it a regular part of your routine may be a tool to extend your life span.

In Ikaria, Greece — one of the regions of the world where people live significantly longer than average — more than 80 percent of people ages 65 to 100 are having sex, according to Blue Zones, an organization that researches the world’s longest-lived cultures.

A variety of studies have found a correlation between an active sex life and a longer life. For example, an observational study of 15,269 U.S. adults published in 2020 in The Journal of Sexual Medicine found that death rates were about 50 percent lower for those who had sex at least once a week, compared with those who rarely had sex.

Experts believe the lower risk of death likely stems from all the other known health benefits of sex, including better heart health, improved sleep, lower stress and a closer relationship with your partner.

Thomas and Marashi both stress that help is available if physical problems such as erectile dysfunction or vaginal dryness are keeping you from being sexually active.

“You may not be as frisky as you once were, but [sex] should still be a part of your identity,” Thomas says. “If there is pain or a lack of desire or another problem, there are people out there who can help.”​​