Besides a heart full of love and a big smile, romance can bring some serious positive health benefits.
Some scientific studies have suggested that a loving relationship, physical touch and sex can bring health benefits to us all.
Sex is definitely good for your heart
Anything that exercises your heart is good for you, including sex. Sexual arousal sends the heart rate higher, and the number of beats per minute reaches its peak during orgasm. (Suit you sir)
But, as with most exercise, it depends how vigorously you do it. Some studies show the average peak heart rate at orgasm is the same as during light exercise, such as walking upstairs. That’s not enough to keep most people fit and healthy so we encourage more.
Adults should do at least 150 minutes (2.5 hours) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, such as cycling or fast walking, every week.
Having a dodgy ticker (heart) doesn’t have to hold you back in the bedroom either. Experts advise that you can usually have sex as long as you can do the everyday activities that have the same impact on your heart without causing chest pain, such as walking up two flights of stairs.
Sex can bust stress!
Sex could help you beat the stresses of 21st century living, according to a small study of 46 men and women.
Participants kept a diary of sexual activity, recording penetrative sex, non-penetrative sex and masturbation.
In stress tests, including public speaking and doing mental arithmetic out loud, the people who had no sex at all had the highest stress levels.
People who only had penetrative sex had the smallest rise in blood pressure. This shows that they coped better with stress.
Plenty of people find that intimacy or orgasm without penetration helps them feel relaxed, as do exercise or meditation. It doesn’t have to be penetrative sex – it’s whatever works for you.
Weekly sex might help fend off illness
There’s a link between how often you have sex and how strong your immune system is, researchers say.
A study in Pennsylvania found students who had sex once or twice a week had higher levels of an important illness-fighting substance in their bodies.
Immunoglobulin A (IgA) was 30% higher in those who had sex once or twice a week than in those who had no sex at all. The lowest levels were in people who had sex more than twice a week.
But don’t devise a sex calendar just yet. More research is needed before it can be proved that weekly sex helps your immune system.
People who have sex feel healthier
It could be that people who feel healthier have more sex, but there seems to be a link between sexual activity and your sense of wellbeing.
A study of 3,000 people aged 57-85 showed that those who were having sex rated their general health higher than those who weren’t.
And it’s not just sex – it’s love, too. People who were in a close relationship or married were more likely to say they felt in “very good” or “excellent” health than just “good” or “poor”.
It seems that emotional and social support can boost our sense of well being.
Loving support reduces risk of angina and ulcer
A happy marriage can help fend off angina and stomach ulcers – at least, it can if you’re a man.
One study of 10,000 men found those who felt “loved and supported” by their spouse had a reduced risk of angina.
This was the case even if they had other risk factors, such as being older or having raised blood pressure.
Similarly, a study of 8,000 men found there was more chance of them getting a duodenal ulcer if they:
- had family problems
- didn’t feel loved and supported by their wife
- didn’t retaliate when hurt by colleagues – in other words, they repressed their anger (researchers called this their “coping style”)
Researchers suggest that stress, lack of social support and coping style can all affect a man’s likelihood of developing an ulcer.
And if you’re single
Spending an evening with friends is good for your health, too. One 10-year study of 1,500 people over 70 years old found those with stronger friendship networks lived longer than those with fewer friends.
Researchers thought this could be because friends may have a positive influence on lifestyle choices, such as smoking or exercise, and offer emotional support.
A life without sex is no bar to excellent health. A long-term study into the health and ageing of a group of nearly 700 older nuns found many kept active and lived well into their 90s and past 100.
Since 1986, participants in The Nun Study had yearly checks on their physical and mental abilities. Researchers used convent records to obtain their social, family and educational background.
While they found some links between lifestyle and dementia – for example, higher education or positive emotions in early life might cut the risk of dementia – this isn’t linked to sexual activity.
If you do have sex, using a condom will help protect you and your partner against sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and unplanned pregnancy.
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