5 Ways Being in Love Is Good for Your Health
People sometimes do crazy things for love, like publicly declaring feelings of affection or spending hours researching that special someone just to find out his or her favorite food. As silly as being smitten can make a person act, it’s not all bad news. A lot of common beliefs about love just aren’t true. Better yet, those feelings also have some surprising health benefits. Since Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, we decided to highlight some of the ways being in love can actually make you healthier.
1. Healthy heart
All of those heart symbols we see to represent romance make a lot more sense when you consider the links researchers have found between love and your ticker. One 2008 study found partners in loving relationships had lower blood pressure than those who were single as well as partners who were unhappily married. The results suggest it’s the caring feelings rather than marital status that matter.
Of all the activities that improve heart health, none are as potent as exercise. This means a romp in the sheets can actually help you on your way to a healthier ticker. A review published in the European Heart Journal concluded sex is equivalent to mild or moderate activity. While not the same as going for a 5-mile run, any bit of movement can improve your cardiovascular health.
Don’t feel bummed if you’re flying solo this Valentine’s Day because you don’t need to be in a romantic relationship to score the heart-boosting benefits of love. One 2007 study found simply writing affectionate feelings, including those directed toward friends and family, can reduce cholesterol levels. Perhaps keeping a journal isn’t so silly after all.
2. Speedy recovery
If you recently experienced an injury, a little romance may help you get back on your feet faster. A 2005 study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry found couples who were hostile toward one another recovered from wounds more slowly than couples who were in healthier relationships. This doesn’t mean the happy couples didn’t have any relationship issues, but being able to work through their problems seemed to aid recovery.
On a more practical note, someone who loves you for you will likely come to your aid when you’re not feeling well. Whether it’s illness or an athletic injury, having a loved one care for you can only help the recovery process.
3. Reduced stress
Being single on February 14 is never that fun. The expectation that you need to be on some hot date puts a lot of pressure on guys who aren’t involved to find someone, anyone to take out. If you’re already seeing someone, though, things are a lot less stressful. As long as you do your best to make your sweetheart feel special, you’ll be fine.
Physical contact plays a big role in relieving stress as well, and it doesn’t necessarily have to mean hitting the sheets. One 2005 study found couples experienced higher levels of the feel-good hormone oxytocin after brief periods of warm contact. Everything from a kiss to a hug to simple hand holding can do the trick.
4. Longer life
Whether you’re married, unsure of the commitment, or plan to remain single for life, there’s no way to deny the link between marital status and longevity. A 2012 review reported those who are married benefit from a reduced risk of mortality compared to those who remain single later in life. One study found this to be particularly true for males.
Once again, romance isn’t a requirement to score some longevity benefits. Research has shown that staying engaged in the community and maintaining social relationships can be just as beneficial. The takeaway is to keep love a part of your life, regardless of whether or not you’re currently dating someone.
5. Brain boost
There might not be a way to eliminate your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease later in life, but you may be able to cut your odds by maintaining your relationship. According to research published in the British Medical Journal, people who live with a partner during middle age are less likely to suffer from cognitive decline later in life. It’s important to note this study was only concerned with cohabitation, not marital status. This means even those who remained unmarried scored the benefits.