There's nothing as thrilling as a great kiss (it's the stuff love songs are written about!), but it might help you to enjoy your next makeout session even more once you realize that kissing really is good for your health. If you'd like to prevent sickness, decrease pain and burn a few calories while you're at it, it's time to pucker up.
Here's what the experts have to say about why we all should be kissing a lot more often:
Whether you're smooching a baby or making out with your spouse, locking lips promotes intimacy and boosts bonding. Dawn Maslar, a biology professor and award-winning author sums it up like this: "When we kiss, both men and women produce the hormone oxytocin. It's often called the 'love hormone' because it causes us (particularly females) to bond." The fact is, we kiss the ones we love, and love the ones we kiss!
Frequent sex can enhance everything from heart health to your self-esteem, and there's no better primer for sex than kissing! As Carol Queen, the staff sexologist at Good Vibrations, points out, "Kissing is a powerful type of foreplay... it helps increase the chances that both partners will have a good and pleasurable erotic experience."
It may sound counterintuitive, but swapping spit is a great way to fend off viruses — especially if all that kissing leads to sex. Research from the journal Medical Hypotheses indicates that women build up immunity against the cytomegalovirus by kissing infected partners. Another study performed at Wilkes University found that study participants who had sex once or twice a week had higher levels of the infection-fighting antibody immunoglobulin A. So if you want to make it through cold season unscathed, it's time to pucker up!
Seriously. It's not just that frequent kissers may have stronger marriages (which is great for mental and emotional health), but kissing can actually help you choose the right partner. When you kiss someone, your body is subconsciously sharing information about your respective immune systems. The technical term is major histocompatibility complex (MHC). Biologically, it's important for partners to bring different immune system genes to the table so that their offspring will have a better opportunity for survival. So if kissing your crush immediately douses the flames of love, you might be able to chalk it up to biological incompatibility.
Kissing releases endorphins, and to quote Elle Woods from Legally Blond, "Endorphins make you happy." Since depression affects an estimated 17.5 million Americans and costs approximately $30 billion each year, why not give yourself a free happiness boost with a little smooching?
During a heated, heart-racing kind of kiss, your body releases adrenaline, which can actually reduce feelings of pain. Pair that with the similarly pain-reducing endorphins that are released during physical intimacy, and locking lips gives you a double whammy for fighting that nagging headache.
How often do you feel frazzled and exhausted at the end of the day? Blame it on your body's natural response to stress: cortisol. Dr. Sharon Stills, naturopathic physician and upcoming author of R.E.D. Alert — Get Real and Heal, points out that "kissing lowers cortisol levels. Cortisol is our stress hormone and it has a negative effect on our immune system, endocrine system and brain health, specifically the hippocampus." So if you can lower stress and reduce those negative effects by simply stealing a kiss with your spouse, do it as often as you can!
Sure, kissing may not burn as many calories as, say, running a mile, but it does pump up your metabolism to about twice its usual rate. Most people burn about 1 calorie a minute at rest, but according to Dr. Stills, kissing burns about 2 to 3 calories per minute. You won't want to skip Zumba in favor of a makeout session, but next time you're lounging around on the couch with your spouse, turn up the heat with some calorie-boosting kisses.
Kissing doesn't just burn calories — it's a workout for your face. If you fear your jowls are starting to sag, try tightening things up with some regular, vigorous kissing. It's the perfect non-surgical prescription to enhance your youthful appearance: safe, free and fun! (OK, so we're not totally sure about this one... but it's worth a shot).
Speaking of fun, kissing is a blast! According to Gina Cloud, women's health advocate and creator of GinaCology, "There are more than 30 kinds of kisses in the Kama Sutra. Kissing is such an important way of expressing ourselves, and the many different ways we can do it bring it into the realm of creative. With so many ways to kiss and express ourselves through it, fun becomes part of the experience, and fun is a great tool for happiness!"
Originally published Feb. 2013. Updated July 2016.
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