If a small part of you died when you found out that sex doesn’t actually count as exercise, this news should revive you: sex may deliver the even better benefit of prolonging your life, according to the results of a small study first published online in the medical journal Psychoneuroendocrinology in March that’s just making the rounds.
In the study, researchers compared the length of DNA strand protectors called telomeres among 129 mothers in committed relationships. Telomeres are a reliable measure of health since they shorten as you age, and the shorter your telomeres, the more likely you are to develop a degenerative disease and premature death, according to lead researcher Tomás Cabeza de Baca of the University of California, San Francisco, who spoke to Psypost.org.
They also assessed the women’s overall relationship satisfaction, perceived stress levels, and daily reports on partner support, conflict and ~*intimacy~* over the course of a week.
Although there was no correlation between the moms’ telomere length and measures like partner support or relationship satisfaction, women who reported having had sex at least once during the week had significantly longer telomeres, even after the results were adjusted for factors that could mess with the results, like perceived stress and relationship quality.
Granted, this study was small and observational, which doesn’t prove a cause-and-effect relationship between sex and telomere length (or longer life for that matter). FWIW, it’s also completely possible that the healthiest women were most sexually active, not the other way around. Until researchers suss out the mechanism behind this magic with a larger, controlled study, the best advice is to have sex with your partner as frequently as you both desire without ulterior motives – or go ahead and scratch that itch on your own, since masturbation has its own benefits too. And if more sex happens? It certainly won’t kill ya.
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com.