Sexual appetites can certainly vary, especially as one ages. According to numerous published studies, having sex regularly does a body good! Sex can preserve heart health in some people, reduce blood pressure, and even boost immunity. Sex can also improve mood, relationships, and mental well-being.

But what can happen if you stop having sex?

Zaps energy. According to many sex therapists, those who refrain from having sex can begin to experience overall sluggishness; they’ll feel less energetic, and their appetite for sex will also dwindle. The old idiom, ‘out of sight, out of mind,’ is how a person might feel who has chosen to opt out when it comes to including intimacy in their lives. Having sex can help boost your spirits through mood-elevating endorphins. Without the benefit of these natural pick-me-ups, you might be prone to feeling spent.

Thin vaginal walls. If sex is stricken from your playlist, you may feel pain when you do engage in the act again. According to the North American Menopause Society, intercourse is important for vaginal health after menopause and even recommends having regular penetrative sex to help vaginal health. “Without regular frequency of intercourse as you get older, the walls of your vagina thin out and can lead to painful sex when you finally get back into the sack,” says Sari Cooper, LCSW, certified sex therapist.

Vaginal Dryness. Not having sex can also result in less lubrication when you’re ready to engage again, especially for older women; this is due to a lack of hormones such as estrogen. Since vaginal lubrication dwindles with age, and if a woman is not being turned on through masturbation, sexy books, videos, or a partner, the lubrication can begin to lessen quickly.

Penis and prostate problems. For men, not having sex for long stretches can bring on such disorders as prostatitis, erectile dysfunction, reduced libido, and premature ejaculation. The older a man is, the more difficult it is to restore his sexual function after a long period of abstinence.

According to a report published in JAMA, men who reported having more than 20 ejaculations per month were 33% less likely to develop prostate cancer compared to those who ejaculated four to seven times a month. An Australian study of 2,338 men also came to a similar conclusion. This study found that men who averaged 4.6 to seven ejaculations a week were 36% less likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer before the age of 70 compared to men who ejaculated less than 2.3 times a week on average.

Heightened stress levels. Researchers also know that stress can cause people to gain weight. Sex naturally alleviates and lessens stress, so in that way, sex may help an individual lose weight because he or she is not as stressed.

Depression and weight gain. Some studies have shown how depression and a lack of sex are linked. So, if you aren’t getting any, you may be more likely to become depressed. For some people, depression often causes weight gain. So, there is also an indirect correlation between abstinence and weight gain due to an increase in depression.

Brain farts. Not having sex affects cognition. According to a study published in The Journals of Gerontology, folks who engaged in more regular sexual activity scored higher on tests that measured their verbal and spatial skills. In addition, people who reported having sex scored higher on cognitive tests than those who had not had sex recently. The researchers think the brain boost may be due to the hormones released during sex.

A study published in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior that Mark Allen led from the University of Wollongong in Australia showed that more frequent sexual activity, including kissing, and greater emotional closeness, were associated with better memory performance — and this link was stronger among older participants. And there are signs that sex can also help your brain grow neurons and work better in general.

Loss of muscle mass. Aside from being fun, sex is also good exercise. Some research suggests that you can start to lose muscle in as quickly as one week of inactivity – as much as 2 pounds if you are fully immobilized. And another study suggests your muscle size can decrease by about 11% after ten days without exercise, even when you aren’t bedridden.

Sex has many of the same effects on the body as an intense workout. During sex, your heart races, your metabolic rate increases, you burn calories and stretch and strengthen muscles. Sex has also been shown to boost the immune system and provide stress relief, just like a good cardio session.

The average sex session lasts about 30 minutes and burns between 50 and 100 calories. It doesn’t sound like much, but sex is a physical activity like any other where you get out of it what you put into it, so if you are vigorous between the sheets, you’ll burn more.

Exercise should be a routine part of everyone’s health regimen, especially as we age, and sex is certainly one great way to stay active.

Cold and flu susceptibility. Researchers found that university students who engaged in sexual activity a few times a week had higher levels of immunoglobulin A ( IgA)—an antibody in their saliva that helps fight infections and common ailments like colds and flu. Interestingly, IgA levels were highest in couples who consistently had sex a few times a week but lowered in people who had no sex.

So, bottom line…sex, it does a body good!