July 16, 2013 at 5:16 PM ET
Put away the night creams and serums; the secret to a more youthful glow isn’t in a jar but in the sack, according to a British researcher. A healthy sex life, especially in your later years, can make you look five to seven years younger, says psychologist David Weeks, Ph.D.
Getting frisky between the sheets (or anywhere else for that matter) leads to the release of human growth hormones that make the skin look more elastic, reports Weeks. Bouncy, resilient skin means fewer wrinkles and less sagging. In addition, working up a sweat in bed can trigger the release of feel-good hormones endorphins (those chemicals that give you a runner’s high), which reduce pain and anxiety—thus helping you sleep better. All these things add up to a bigger spring in your step and a more youthful appearance.
To test these theories, Weeks spent a decade polling men and women about their sex lives. He found that those who looked younger than their age boasted having sex an average of three times a week—50 percent more than those who looked their age or older. Well, no wonder I’m starting to look like an old hag.
If you think a wham, bam, thank you, ma’am type of encounter is going to chase away the laugh lines, guess again. You can’t just tell your hubby to hop on and get it over with so you can forego your lunchtime face-lift. According to Weeks, the pleasure derived from a roll in the hay is a “crucial factor” in preserving one’s youthfulness. Weeks's previous research found that frequent, enjoyable sex also helps you live longer. And to think I’ve been wasting all this time eating kale and broccoli salads. If you’ll excuse me, I have a new anti-aging regimen to attend to.
A version of this story originally appeared on iVillage.