Okay, you probably won’t hear your doctor say, “Take two kisses and call me in the morning,” but did you know there are definite health benefits to puckering up? Here’s a fun look at kissing and how you can use it to practice good medicine this Valentine’s Day.
1. Pucker Up to Relieve Tension
Kissing is a stress reliever, according to the Indiana University School of Medicine Web site. It clears the mind, decreases anxiety, and produces physiological changes in the body that assist in relaxation. Endorphins, natural morphine-like substances; oxytocin, a calming hormone; and brain chemicals, called neurotransmitters, are released when we feel loved, giving us a sense of well-being and improved self-esteem. “It’s a pleasurable activity,” Dr. Michael Fleming, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians, says, “and all of us experience a decrease in stress levels when we engage in pleasurable activities.”
2. Smooch to Burn Calories
Smooching also burns approximately two calories a minute, double our basic metabolic rate. Fleming says, “At that rate, you can grab a Hershey’s Kiss—after all, it is the ‘food of love’—then grab your spouse for 12.5 minutes of passionate kissing. But if a Hershey’s Chocolate Bar is more your speed, you’ll need a couple hours of serious lip-lock.”
Of course, if you don’t have two hours to spare, you can jog on the treadmill and get the job done in 27 minutes. It’s your choice.
3. Kiss Cavities Goodbye
Planting a good one may help fight tooth decay. “Kissing increases saliva flow, which can be helpful in removing cavity-causing material from tooth surfaces” says Dr. Mark Donald, national spokesperson for the Academy of General Dentistry.
But that doesn’t mean you can toss the toothbrush. “Don’t depend on kissing to take the place of brushing and flossing,” Donald warns. “Effective oral hygiene and good home care are much more important and exponentially more effective in preventing dental disease.”
So, for good dental health, floss, brush and kiss—in that order!
4. Lock Lips and Live Longer
“I married the first man I ever kissed,” former First Lady Barbara Bush says. She may have inadvertently discovered the key to longevity. Numerous studies link a happy, committed marriage with better health and longer life for both men and women.
In his book, Love and Survival, the Scientific Basis for the Healing Power of Intimacy, Dr. Dean Ornish reports that men and women who felt most loved were less likely to have blocked heart arteries than those who didn’t feel loved. In addition, men who did not feel loved by their wives were twice as likely to experience angina than those who reported a loving marriage relationship.
Feelings of love and intimacy may also protect against infectious diseases. In a study of healthy individuals exposed to the common cold virus, those who had supportive relationships developed fewer cold symptoms.
And the protection isn’t limited to adults. “Children whose parents are appropriately demonstrative with them and each other tend to have less illness,” says Dr. Diana Wiley, a marriage and family therapist. “When there is regular affection, immunoglobulin A—an antibody that helps ward off colds and viruses—goes up.”
5. Romance Away the Blues
Feeling a little down today? Wiley says kissing may be an instant cure for mild depression. Got a headache? A good smooch-fest can be just what the doctor ordered. By relieving the tension that restricts blood vessels in the brain, you can be pain-free in a matter of minutes.
6. Give a Peck, Heal a Hurt
But don’t think kisses are reserved for romance. Although medical science may cringe at the thought of planting germs on a wound, parents know the healing power in kissing boo-boos. For centuries, simple kisses have relieved the pain of scraped knees and broken hearts, encouraged the disappointed and mended fragile egos.
All kisses are not created equal, so make this February 14 a special day. Kiss your parents; kiss your kids; then grab the box of chocolates and kiss your spouse. It could be the best workout you’ve ever had.
(Hearts photo courtesy of FreeImages.co.uk)