With the celebration of the Valentine’s Day now a few days ago, experts have revealed how often people should have sex to optimize their health.
spoke to four medical professionals who said that couples should aim to have sex at least once or twice a week — but they added there is no harm in having it even more often.
There was less of a consensus among the experts regarding singletons, who may have to sacrifice friendships or their careers in pursuit of so much sex.
Sex also counts as exercise, sending the heart pumping and blood flowing around the body, which helps fight cardiovascular disease.
Studies suggest sex also improves people’s sleep, helping them fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. Yet surveys suggest that most Americans are not getting nearly enough sex with a quarter of people admitting to not having sex in the last year.
Dr. Ian Kerner, a sex therapist and author of bestseller ‘She Comes First’, told: ‘I see couples a lot who are stuck in ruts and not having sex nearly as frequently as one or both of them would like to.
‘While it is hard to suggest a number, there have been some studies that show couples who have sex once a week have higher levels of relationship positivity.’
Echoing his comments, Dr. Peter Kanaris, a sex therapist on Long Island in New York, added: ‘The frequency can vary, but less frequently than once a week or once every other week, what we see happening in many couples is that they transform into a management team,’ he said.
‘They are paying bills, raising children, taking care of elders, assuming all the stressful responsibilities of life, but — you know — what gets lost is that pay-off.’
During sex your body releases endorphins and oxytocin, and these feel-good hormones create feelings of relaxation and intimacy, as well as helping to stave off anxiety and depression.
The after-glow from sex can last for as long as 48 hours, research suggests, which may give people the positive outlook on live needed to excel in their career or stick to a diet or exercise program.
Dr Kernar said: ‘If you are having a healthy sex life, it makes you feel more vital and alive.
‘I think you also feel constant, and I think it helps with a sense of self-esteem because having sex means you feel desired, you feel wanted, which is an important part of your self-esteem.’
A number of studies have also started to link having an active sex life to a lower risk of prostate cancer, the most common type among men affecting 13 out of every 100 in their lifetimes.
Scientists are not clear on the cause but say this may be because of boosted blood flow to the genital area more often.
Having sex often can boost sleep because it triggers the release of the hormone prolactin — which is needed for the rapid-eye movement (REM) stage of sleep.
There is also suggestions that more frequent sex could reduce menstrual pain in women. This is because orgasm causes the muscle to contract and release, providing some relief from the feelings. Endorphins released also help to boost mood.
Dr Kerner said: ‘I’ve noticed that people who have healthy sex lives have healthier lives overall.
‘They eat well, look good, feel good, and take care of themselves; sex helps them to feel sexual, and they want to hold onto that and maintain it.
‘They also tend not to be drinking too much or smoking too much, or just abusing their bodies.’
Dr Kanaris added: ‘Studies have shown that people who remain sexually active tend to live longer.
‘This is a correlation, not causation, but it may be that we are seeing a person who is sexually active for longer and has more sex into their 50s, 60s and so on tends to be more engaged in other beneficial lifestyle behaviors that go towards being healthy and living longer.’
Although the scientists’ recommendation for people in relationships to have sex once a week is based on rigorous studies, including a 2017 scientific paper involving 26,000 people — there is little equivalent research for singles.
When asked how often singles should have sex, Dr Kerner said: ‘I think it is important to keep your goals in mind.
‘Very often, I will be working with a single person who are hooking up a lot and having a lot of casual sex and it is not necessarily making them feel good. It is important to have sex that alines with your goals.’
Dr Kanaris toldsingle people should not necessarily have sex once a week.
‘Couples have steady and reliable access to each other, so they can get together more frequently.
‘But with single individuals, younger persons not in a steady relationship or older persons who have already lost a partner due to divorce or decease, are a different group.
‘We now have the question of access and opportunity, and this varies tremendously between individuals.’
The benefits of sex also depend on the quality, with regular hook-ups for some individuals only able to go so far.
Dr Yvonne Fulbright, a human sexuality expert and published author based in Iceland, told: ‘Between the internet, bars, social opportunities, and dating apps, singles (and people in general) have plenty of opportunities to have sexual liaisons.
‘My students, over the years, have confirmed for me time and time again that the thrills and joys of random hook-ups or casual sex only last for so long.
‘People, in general, are looking for more meaningful sex and more meaningful relationships.
‘Some do rely on pornography in the meantime, but, at the end of the day, they’re looking for human connection and physical, supportive, pleasurable touch from another.’
Medics also warned of the risks of having too little sex.
Emotionally, they said there was a higher risk of infidelity occurring in a couple — as one member or both are not satisfied.
Dr De-Andrea Blaylock-Solar, a sex therapist based in St Louis, Missouri, also warned that it could lead to atrophy of the genitals.
This is when the lack of blood flow to the nether regions leads to muscles in this area becoming weaker. She did say, however, that it would not be linked to factors such as a reduction in penis size.
Asked how to ensure someone gets enough sex, experts recommended that it is worth planning the activity.
Dr Kerner said: ‘Having good sex absolutely contributes to the health of one’s relationship.
‘I do think couples should make a ritual out of it actually, when we go to the gym, wake up, i really do think we should make a ritual out of having sex.
He added: ‘I often will suggest to couples on the morning you know you will have sex, why don’t you really wake up and live that day knowing that you would like to get to the sex and for it to be good sex?
‘I don’t mean change your entire life, but enough sleep, eating well, going to the gym, not bringing home too much work, being nice to your partner, sharing in chores, planning something fun, whatever it takes to get to the sex at the end of the day… because I think having a healthy sex life means having a healthy life overall.’
How do I know I am getting enough sex?
Experts say that as a rule of thumb, everyone in relationships should aim to have sex around once a month.
But they do point out that this will vary between couples, although less than once every two weeks could cause issues in the relationship.
Dr Ian Kerner, a sex therapist and published author, explained you could tell you weren’t getting enough sex if you kept craving it.
‘Very often these people don’t feel desired by their partner,’ he told, ‘very often they have a biological craving, desire, and don’t feel connected with their partner.
‘I have one patient and she is not having enough sex or the kind that she would like and she is constantly thinking about sex and constantly fanticising.’
At the other end of the scale, he also explained how to tell whether you are having too much sex.
He said: ‘Feelings of pressured to have sex betray this.
‘I work with couples, where there is pressure over not fulfilling needs.
‘If you feel like sex is becoming out of control or too impulsive, pressure to have sex all the time, all of those are indications that you may be overdoing the sex.’