London (AFP) – The benefits of doing crossword puzzles or learning languages have long been touted to stave off mental decline. Now a new study says regular sex for over-50s should help too.

The British study published in the Journals of Gerontology this week tested 28 men and 45 women aged between 50 and 83 for a range of cognitive abilities and asked if they had sex weekly, monthly or never.

People who engaged in sexual activity at least once a week scored highly on verbal fluency and visuospatial ability in which participants were asked to copy a complex design and draw a clock face from memory.

“It is possible that increasing frequency of sexual activity may correspond to better cognition,” said the study by the universities of Coventry and Oxford, which builds on research suggesting that more sex improves mental sharpness in general.

“People don’t like to think that older people have sex,” Hayley Wright, the lead researcher from Coventry University, said in a statement.

“But we need to challenge this conception at a societal level and look at what impact sexual activity can have on those aged 50 and over,” she said.

The study said further research could look at how biological elements, such as dopamine and oxytocin, could influence the relationship between sexual activity and brain function to explain their findings.

“The findings have important implications for the maintenance of intimate relationships in later life,” it concluded.

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