Sex: It burns calories, it makes us feel good (and feel closer to our partner), gives us glowy skin—and it can also be a powerful anti-ager, according to a small study published in the scientific journal Psychoneuroendocrinology.
The study found that women who have sex with their partner at least once a week have significantly longer telomeres—tiny nucleoprotein caps that protect chromosomes from deteriorating. Think of them like the plastic caps on your shoelaces, writes Body and Soul. Stress, lack of sleep, poor diet, and aging all shorten telomeres, making you susceptible to degenerative diseases such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and premature mortality. Longer telomeres prevent disease.
Luckily, there’s an enzyme called telomerase, which can help lengthen telomeres—and telomerase production increases when women have sex with a partner they love, according to the one-week study of 129 mothers in committed relationships.
Essentially, women who reported being sexually active during the week had significantly longer telomeres than women who didn’t—and sexual satisfaction levels made no difference. “Past research has found that high-quality, satisfactory relationships and sexual intimacy are good for physical and mental health,” says lead researcher Tomás Cabeza de Baca of the University of California, San Francisco.
While this was only a small study—and Cabeza de Baca believes there’s a lot more research to do, particularly on sexual intimacy’s role in health—it’s the best excuse we’ve heard to head to bed.
Read more at Body and Soul, and read up on the libido-boosting tricks a doctor recommends to his patients next.