8 surprising health benefits that come with being in love
Discover all the physical perks of a romantic relationship.
Mon, Feb 14 2011 at 9:43 AM
Ain't love grand? It's fulfilling, exciting and, as it turns out, good for you, too. We spoke to experts and found out that romance can bring you more than just giddiness — it can also positively affect your health and well-being. So whether you've been married for years or are single and looking, the following evidence will remind you why it's important to make room for love in your life.
It may bolster your immune system.
Research suggests that happy couples who engage in positive conflict resolution have higher functioning immune systems than those who don't, says Gian Gonzaga, MD, senior director of research & development at eHarmony Labs. He points to a study by Ronald Glazer and Jan Kiecolt-Glaser, in which couples were observed during disputes. The couples who displayed the most negative behavior during the fights also showed the largest decline in immediate immune system functioning. Those who argued in a more loving, positive way had higher immediate immune function. Looking to fight in a healthier way? According to Gonzaga, the key to positive conflict resolution is productively engaging in the conversation without retreating or "stonewalling" each other.
It can make you physically fit.
No, you don't get to bid your gym membership goodbye. But, it turns out that couples who exercise together have more success than people who sweat solo. According to certified fitness trainer and nutritionist Jay Cardiello, "nearly half of people who exercise alone quit their programs after one year, but two-thirds of those who work out with a loved one stick to it." Even better: Both men and women work between 12 and 15 percent harder when training with a romantic partner. Whether it's the excitement of being together or the extra push to keep up with your partner, sweating à deux clearly has its benefits. To reap the rewards, try scheduling in gym sessions with your honey during a time when you'll both be able to commit, like in the morning or during lunch.
It might help you live longer.
"There's a long history of research that has looked at the health benefits of marriage," says Joseph Hullett, MD, psychiatrist and senior medical director for OptumHealth, Behavioral Solutions. "According to a 2004 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), mortality rates were found to be the lowest in married couples." Hullett attributes these findings to the fact that, generally speaking, people experience less stress when they're in committed, healthy relationships — and less stress means better health. Plus, it has been shown that when men marry they give up some of their risky behavior — like heavy drinking and smoking — which leads to longevity. Good news for your hubby!
It may clear up your skin.
That healthy glow of being in love? It's not just a myth! "When our love life is in order, our stress levels are lower," says Genaise Gerstner, MD, a New York City-based dermatologist. "There is less free-floating cortisol — high cortisol levels cause stress-induced acne — and thus less skin breakouts and pimples."
It can improve your heart heath.
"Human beings are social animals who have biological drives that make them want to find relationships," says Hullett. "When they can't find those unions, they're punished with stress." People in happy relationships experience less stress, which in turn improves their cardiovascular health. Furthermore, Hullett says people who aren't in stable, committed relationships have an increased rate of heart attacks, particularly those who have been widowed, giving a graver meaning to the term "heartbroken."
It can reduce feelings of pain.
The comfort of holding your husband's hand can actually minimize your feelings of pain, according to a recent study. "Researchers studied people that experienced electrical shocks and found that holding someone's hand ameliorated the pain and perception of pain," says Hullett. The most fascinating part? These feelings of pain decreased even more when the female subjects — who were in happy marriages — held their husband's hands. "Yes, friends helped reduce the pain that these subjects were feeling, but their husband did a better job at it."
It can regulate your menstrual cycle.
That is, love — as in making love — can. If you're struggling with irregular periods, try hitting the sheets. Eric Braverman, MD, author of "Younger (Sexier) You," points to a study from Planned Parenthood demonstrating that women who have sex at least once a week have higher levels of estrogen and are more likely to have regular menstrual cycles than women who have sex less frequently.
It can improve your mental well-being.
We all know that being in love makes us feel elated, but it's not just in our heads. There actually is scientific evidence of romance's blissful effects on the brain. Braverman references a study from Rutgers University that found participants, when they looked at photos of people they deeply love, had an increase of dopamine brain activity, which is associated with optimism, energy and a sense of well-being. Talk about being high on love! Helen Fisher, PhD, a biological anthropologist and author of "Why Him? Why Her?" supports this notion: "The bottom line is, the dopamine rush that comes from being in love gives you tremendous energy and optimism."
This article is reprinted with permission from WomansDay.com.
Related links on Woman's Day: