We all know that kissing is pretty great (particularly when you’re kissing someone you’re really stoked to be kissing. And sure, a good make-out sesh feels amazing and is the ultimate form of foreplay, but it turns out kissing actually comes with some serious health benefits — as if you really needed another excuse to smooch.
So, in on honor of International Kissing Day, find a whole new appreciation for kissing and read on about how the activity’s totally good for your mind, body and spirit.
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 one calorie a minute at rest, but according to Dr. Sharon Stills, naturopathic physician and author of R.E.D. Alert — Get Real and Heal, 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.
Whether you’re smooching a baby or passionately kissing your spouse, locking lips promotes intimacy and boosts bonding. Dawn Maslar, a biology professor, 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!
Spurs arousal and enhances sex
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, Good Vibrations‘ staff sexologist and founding director of the Center for Sex & Culture, 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 in 2009 indicates that women build up immunity against the cytomegalovirus by kissing infected partners. Another study performed at Wilkes University in 2004 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!
Makes better marriages
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.”
According to a 2009 study in the Western Journal of Communication, the authors found that affectionate behavior, including kissing, could have a positive effect on your cholesterol. “We hypothesized that increasing affectionate behavior would effect improvements in physical and psychological conditions known to be exacerbated by stress,” such as cholesterol. After six weeks of tests, the group showed improvements in perceived stress, relationship satisfaction and total serum cholesterol.
How often do you feel frazzled and exhausted at the end of the day? Blame it on your body’s natural response to stress: Dr. Stills 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 partner, do it as often as you can!
Improves allergy symptoms
Wait — kissing improves allergy symptoms?! Yep. According to a 2003 Japanese study published in Physiology and Behavior, participants kissed for 30 minutes in a private room while listening to soft music. At the end of it, the participants experienced relief from hives and signs of allergic reaction from Japanese cedar pollen and house dust mites.
Turns up the fun
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!”
So get to smooching!
A version of this story was published February 2019.
Before you go, check out the six orgasms you probably didn’t know you could have:
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