Nowadays, in many ways, sex gets a bad rap: anonymous sex, unsafe sex, addictive sex, hook-up sex…you know. I’d like to focus on the other side of sex: all the ways that it’s good for us.

I researched this on-line, because – although I have more than two decades of experience as a psychotherapist helping individuals and couples have good, healthy sex lives – I wanted more hard data/research to back up what I already intuitively knew.

I found so much good data that I was overwhelmed. Here, after sorting it through, are some of the most impressive reasons that sex is good for you:

Sex strengthens relationships: oxytocin, (aka “love hormone) is released during physical intimacy and skin-to-skin contact and increases romantic feelings between you and your partner(s). And be sure to cuddle after sex: a University of Toronto study found that couples who were asked to spend extra time together after sex—kissing, talking, and being affectionate—reported higher levels of satisfaction with their sex lives and with their relationships. A 2014 study from Johns Hopkins University (on adults ages 58 to 85) discovered that couples who regularly engaged in sexual activity—even as little as once a month—reported happier relationships than those who hadn’t had sex in a year or more.  Sexual activity didn’t have to mean intercourse or result in orgasm; the study authors say that anything couples do together to stimulate sexual arousal can have a lasting benefit.

Sex helps you sleep: after orgasm, the body releases a relaxation hormone called prolactin, says Kristin Mark, PhD, director of the Sexual Health Promotion Lab at the University of Kentucky. “If you’re not feeling particularly tired beforehand, having sex and reaching orgasm may certainly help you nod off a little more quickly than you would have otherwise.”

Sex lowers your blood pressure and stress levels: in a 2005 study, volunteers were asked to record their sexual activity for two weeks and were then given anxiety-inducing tasks, like public speaking or solving math problems out loud. Those who’d had sex over the study period experienced smaller blood pressure spikes, and recovered from them more quickly, than those who hadn’t. The study suggests two important benefit of regular sex: better blood pressure control and better stress management overall.

Sex strengthens your heart: regular sex may benefit the cardiovascular system in other ways. A British study found that men who had sex at least twice a week over a period of 20 years were less likely to have died from heart disease than those who got it on less than once a month. After 10 years, in fact, their risk of sudden death was 50% less than that of the group that had less sex.

Sex boosts immunity: getting busy on a weekly basis stimulates the immune system and provides protection from the common cold, according to a Wilkes University study. Researchers gave college students questionnaires about their sex lives, then tested their saliva for levels of immunoglobulin A (IgA), an antibody that helps fight off viruses. They found that the students who had sex once or twice a week had 30% more IgA than those who had sex less frequently.

Sex may extend your life: several studies have found connections between a busier sex life and a longer life in general, most notably a Duke University study that took place between 1955 and 1980. Researchers found that for men, frequency of intercourse was related to longer lifespans; while for women, enjoyment of intercourse was the most significant factor.

Sex makes you look younger: research presented at the 2013 British Psychological Society annual meeting found that study subjects who had frequent sex (at least three times a week for people in their forties and fifties) look between 4-7 years younger than those who had less.

Conclusion: I could easily go on-and-on with all the benefits I discovered (both personally and professionally) from having a good sex life. I invite you to discover your own and experience less stress, better sleep, more intimacy/bonding with your partner(s) and the benefits of more oxytocin in your body (and your life).