NOTE: Published in this month’s TOTAL FITNESS Magazine. Grab a copy today!
Love, it seems, has immense therapeutic potential that inspires professionals to continue exploring ways in which to channel its benefits in promoting good health, longevity, and a fulfilled life. Where there is love, intimacy cannot be too far behind. And these two, put together, often bring healing, joy, and meaning to human lives.
1. Being in a healthy relationship keeps you fit. Literally.
But before that, a caveat: Just because you consider yourself (finally) off-the-market on account of a relationship, it doesn’t mean that you have earned the right to let go as some men/women tend to do. Being in a healthy relationship means looking after each other’s needs and in doses that are non-detrimental. Keeping it to the physical aspect of romantic relationship: Did you know that the simple act of kissing can burn up to 28 calories, while up to 30 minutes of sexual activity can burn 85 calories – the equivalent of a small glass of red wine. This might not sound like much but a vigorous session can burn up to 200 calories, which is about the same as running for 15 minutes. Sex also works the core muscles in your legs, pelvis, bottom and abdomen and can boost levels of testosterone, which leads to stronger bones and muscles. So, next time you feel like opening that bag of Cheetos, grab your beau instead.
2. Love is a potent stress-buster
Relationships – and especially marriages – might traditionally be seen as sources of stress but supportive, long-term relationship brings mental health and physical health benefits to both the man and the woman. To prove this point, a study published recently by researchers at the University of Chicago found that men and women in happy relationships or marriage had lower levels of stress hormone cortisol in their bodies, indicating they had reacted less to the stress. In addition, happy and fulfilling relationships have also been linked to improvements in mental and physical health and longer life expectancy.
3. Healthy relationships promote better immune system and can help reduce pain
It has been found that optimism and positive attitude boost immunity and people who are in love and cared for in return are naturally optimistic. Going further, some studies indicate that having (safe) sex once or twice a week lead to higher levels of an infection-fighting antibody called immunoglobulin A, or IgA. Having physical contact with another person, whether kissing, cuddling or having sex, promotes the release of the hormone called oxytocin – dubbed the “love hormone”. Aside from its relaxing effect on the body, oxytocin can also reduce anxiety and help numb pain by releasing endorphins. To demonstrate this, scientists at Stanford University School of Medicine, launched a trial whereby patients suffering from chronic headaches were given a dose of oxytocin in the form of a nasal spray. Around half of the patients administered oxytocin said their headache pain had been reduced by half and a further 27% reported no pain after four hours.
4. Healthy sexual relationships promote longevity
On the subject of longevity, many scientists believe that good sex and orgasm may be linked to higher life expectancy. In 1997 British Medical Journal, there was a study published which reported that men who had at least two orgasms a week had less than half the risk of dying from various causes over 10 years of follow-up than those with a lower frequency of orgasm. Meanwhile, other studies have suggested that sexual dissatisfaction is a predictor of the onset of cardiovascular disease.
5. Love and marriage alleviate depression
It’s quite common to hear people complain about their significant others driving them crazy on many occasions, but what most people don’t know is that companionship actually tends to be good for mental health—especially for women. This is particularly true when it comes to depression, which is roughly twice as common in women. According to experts, depression is a very female expression of psychological distress and the benefit of marriage shows up in women in lower levels of depression. Marriage also appears to be a stabilizing force in women with bipolar disorder. Married bipolar women have fewer and milder depressive episodes than their never-married counterparts, but the same trend is somehow absent in bipolar men.
6. Financial Stability and insurance
Believe it or not, married people are more financially stable than their single counterparts. By recognizing the fact that they now form part of a partnership, couples tend to become more conscious of their expenses, savings, and the pursuit of a comprehensive insurance for their family in the future. While worrying less about money certainly helps reduce stress and anxiety, financial stability also impacts health in a more concrete way, via access to health care. Marriage is associated with a hearty increase in the likelihood of having health insurance for both parties.
So, are love, relationship, and marriage good for your health? In general, as research and studies suggest, YES. People who are in happy and fulfilling relationships tend to live longer, have better access to insurance and health care, enjoy a more satisfying and exciting sex life, experience less stress, live a healthier lifestyle, and have lower rates of serious illnesses and depression compared to their single counterparts. Now, if you happen to be in a relationship and you don’t see or feel any of these, then it’s time to evaluate the situation and work on changing the course.