Effects of a healthy love life

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Studies show that there are significant emotional and physical benefits of snuggling up to your other half - as if we need an excuse! We take a closer look at how intimacy and a healthy love life can improve your well-being.

Getting under the sheets with your partner can have positive impacts on your physical and mental health. Like other cardiovascular workouts, intimacy has likewise been linked to lowering blood pressure, stress relief, elevated happiness and a more positive outlook on lifei.

A 1997 study conducted by Queen's University in Belfast found a healthy love life to have a protective effect on men's physical healthii. The study monitored the lives of 918 middle aged men over four years, and concluded that there is a link between regular intimacy and improved healthiii. In 2001, new research from the same university found that the risk of heart attack or stroke was lessened by half for those men who were regularly intimate with a partneriii.

A healthy love life means a healthier outlook and increased physical wellbeing.

Health benefits

Being physically close to your partner has incredible emotional benefits. Beyond the advantages of having an emotional connection to someone, those in an intimate relationship tend to rate their quality of life (and health) higher than those who were not. Drawn from a study of 3000 Americans aged 57-85 years oldiv, people in relationships were more likely to claim that they felt 'very good' or 'excellent' than those who were not in a relationship, who were more likely to select 'good' or 'poor'. Furthermore, romantic relationships contribute to a person's self-esteem and, apparently, make a person less likely to take risksv.

And it'll come as no surprise that a healthy love life is great for stress-busting and for improving a person's quality of sleepvi. Furthermore, an ability to talk to and seek help from our partners can reduce stress levels. Julianne Holt-Lunstad, Associate Professor of Psychology at Brigham Young University, USA agrees: 'our relationships help us cope with stress, so if we have someone we can turn to for emotional support or advice that can buffer the negative effects of stress'v.

Better than the gym

Regular intimacy with your partner can improve your general level of fitness. Getting busy under the covers can raise an individual's heart rate anywhere from 70 beats per minute (bpm) to 150. Men's Health magazine has even ventured to call the bed 'the single greatest piece of exercise equipment ever invented'iii!

Hugging can decrease stress and blood pressure.

The less obvious…

And what you may not know is that fun in the bedroom may be an effective method for pain relief or protect you from the flu! Hormones that are released - including oxytocins, endorphins and oestrogen-have been found to aid in pain relief against headaches, arthritis, PMS and much moreiii. On top of this, according to Wilkes University in the US, the antibody immunoglobulin A, which assists in strengthening the immune system and reduces the risk of contracting the common cold and fluiii, is produced up to 30% more during intimate relations!

And if you're not getting busy on a regular basis, don't despair! It seems that just being close to someone can have its own positive effects. Research from the University of North Carolina suggests that hugging and hand-holding can release the hormone oxytocin, which lowers the levels of stress hormones in the body and reduces a person's blood pressurev, vii. 'Huggers' are, therefore, more likely to have a lower heart rate, lower blood pressure and smaller heart rate increasesi.

So don't just sit there, share the love today!

i NHS Choices, 2012, Benefits of Love and Sex, http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/Goodsex/Pages/ValentinesDay.aspx

ii Davey Smith, G., Frankel, S., Yarnell, J., 1997., Sex and death: are they related? Findings from the Caerphilly cohort study, BMJ, 315(7123), 1641–1644.doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.315.7123.1641

iii Farnham, A, Is Sex Necessary?, Forbes, http://www.forbes.com/2003/10/08/cz_af_1008health.html

iv Lindau ST, Schumm LP, Laumann EO, et al. 2007, A Study of Sexuality and Health among Older Adults in the United States, New England Journal of Medicine, 357, pp.762-74

v Saslow, R., 2012, Health benefits of falling and staying in love, The Washington Post, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/02/07/AR2011020703564.html

vi Brouard, J., 7 Unexpected Health Benefits You Get From Sex, Reader's Digest, http://www.rd.com/slideshows/7-unexpected-health-benefits-you-get-from-sex/#slideshow=slide2

vii News in Health, The Power of Love: Hugs and Cuddles Have Long-Term Effects, National Institutes of Health (NIH), http://newsinhealth.nih.gov/2007/February/docs/01features_01.htm