Study: Sex Helps Aging Brains
As we grow older, keeping sexually active may be the secret to keeping our brains active, too.
A study conducted at the Centre for Research in Psychology, Behavior and Achievement at Coventry University in England has found that people over age 50 who are more sexually active also have better memory and cognitive skills than people who are not.
And sex seems to give men's brains a bigger boost than women's.
Men who were more sexually active scored higher on tests of memory skills and executive function -- the mental processes involved in planning, solving problems and paying attention. Women who were more sexually active saw only a higher score in their memory skills.
Researchers looked at data collected from more than 6,800 men and women ages 50 to 89. Participants were asked whether they had engaged in sexual activity over the past 12 months. This included a wide range of sexual activity -- intercourse, masturbating, petting or fondling.
There were also two cognitive tests. One, a recall test designed to measure memory, in which people were asked to remember a list of 10 common words immediately after hearing them, and then again after a brief delay. And a second, gauging executive function, involved identifying the missing number in a numerical sequence.
Sexually active men and women scored higher than sexually inactive adults on both the word-recall and number-sequencing tasks.
It's too early to tell whether sex is one way for older adults to keep their minds sharp -- or whether it is the other way around -- people who want a long and healthy sex life should start by doing things that are good for the brain, such as being physically and mentally active and eating a healthy diet.