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The surprising ways sex reduces stress

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Photo: Stocksy/Thais Ramos-Varela

You’ve probably suspected that getting it on isn’t just good for your in-the-moment pleasure sensors, but your overall wellbeing as well—and you’re totally right.

But it’s not just boosting your quality of life and connection with your partner, either. Science says sex is beneficial on a physiological level, too—it can do everything from boost your mood to lower blood pressure. Another way getting busy does a body good? It’s a serious stress reliever.

Researchers have found that sex is similar to eating pleasurable “comfort food” in its ability to reduce tension by stimulating the brain’s reward system. It also “releases oxytocin into the body, which promotes relaxation and a sense of trust and connection,” says Vanessa Marin a licensed sex therapist. “Oxytocin also works to combat cortisol, the main stress hormone.”

Researchers have found that sex is similar to eating pleasurable “comfort food” in its ability to reduce stress.

This happens whether or not you have an orgasm, says Marin, adding that your body releases oxytocin after only 20 seconds of skin-to-skin contact, so any sort of physical touch is beneficial. Plus, “sex can also be a cardiovascular workout that increases endorphins, which can also lower cortisol levels,” she says.

And technically, you can achieve the benefits of sex even when you’re solo; Marin says masturbation has many of the same anxiety-relieving benefits—as well as some particular perks all its own, like “improving your relationship with your body, improving your self-esteem and body confidence, and learning what you like.” In other words, reducing your stress is Tinder-optional.

The sex-cardio connection Marin mentioned works both ways—here’s how working out boosts your libido. Plus, why getting (a different) type of busy makes you happier at work