Social distancing is being practiced far and wide right now as a way to help #flattenthecurve and it appears to be working. It’s also giving couples more opportunities to support their immunity through intercourse. That is right—while social distancing, physical distancing due to desire to not spread germs is valid between non-cohabitating parties, but it doesn’t pertain to those who share the same bed. Yes, the joy of intimacy actually bolsters you and your partners’ immune systems. Yes, sex slows your rate of aging and makes, what we call your RealAge (the actual age of your body as opposed to your calendar age), younger.
Relationships and health
Before we talk about the three-letter word (s-e-x), let’s first explore how relationships, and how happy we are in them, are predictors of our well-being and rate of aging. Relationships and community are some of the most important factors in predicting our health and length of life, more so than social class, IQ or genes, according to a Harvard study. The study’s director, Robert Waldinger, shared that “taking care of your body is important, but tending to your relationships is a form of self-care too.”
Even though you’re social distancing from the outside world, you need to do the opposite with your partner. If you use this period to come together to create a deeper bond, it will lead to more time for intimacy as well as more and younger years on your life.
Twice a week, at least
There’s science that supports the notion that sex improves immunity. In a study involving 112 college students in Pennsylvania, those who frequently had sex—one to two times per week—showed significantly higher levels of immunoglobulin A (IgA), an antibody that has a role in the immune function of membranes. These antibodies neutralize pathogens, including bacteria and viruses.
It works for older couples too. In the National Social Life study from the University of Chicago, there were two key health factors for those at age 85 to still have sex if they had it at age 58—having a partner, and having a low level of inflammation as measured by a protein called highly specific C-reactive protein (hs-CRP). So, having sex correlated with a healthy immune system that keeps inflammation at bay. Amazingly sex helps both—it keeps you physiologically younger and correlates with a lower hs-CRP.
How it works
I know you probably know how it all works, but what is it about sex that gives your immune system the love it needs? We’re not sure, but it does correlate with your release of neurotransmitters and hormones. Endorphins are released in the body when you’re affectionate and these endorphins help rev up cells in the immune system that are known to keep you healthy.
There’s another hormone that is released in the body that helps support social connectedness. When a person experiences an orgasm, the hormone oxytocin (or the love hormone) is released from the brain. While its relationship with immunity is complex, its relationship with bonding is direct and immediate: it supports bonding.
As you look for ways to support your body’s natural immune system through healthy foods, nutritional vitamins and supplements, exercise and appropriate sleep, be sure to show affection and enjoy the pleasures of sex. After all, it will make you both healthier and younger.