Studies show that being part of a couple can be good for your health. Being in a functional romantic relationship has been shown to lower your risk of heart disease and maybe even increase your lifespan. One notable finding is that teaming up with your significant other can help you to achieve health goals such as losing weight.
Researchers from University College of London analyzed 3,722 married and co-habitating couples who had unhealthy behaviors such as smoking, being sedentary or overweight, and they deduced that men and women are more likely to commit to a positive behavioral change if their partner hops on board, too. (That is a big “if.”)
“Having someone going through the same challenges can provide support and encouragement, make you more accountable for your actions and help to reinforce good habits,” says psychologist Sarah Jackson, PhD, the study’s lead researcher. “For instance, your significant other can share the tasks of planning and preparing healthy meals or encouraging you to go for that run or swim after work when you don’t feel like it.”
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Here are some additional ways in which pairs can motivate each other to get healthier.
MAP OUT A SHARED OBJECTIVE
“When it comes to getting healthy, the first step is to sit down and find a common shared goal,” says Guy Scotolati, a clinical instructor in the Department of Kinesiology and Applied Physiology at the University of Delaware. Once you’ve narrowed down what you want to accomplish, Scotolati suggests making a short list of all of the steps you can do together to bring it to fruition.
For example, if your plan is to eat healthier, ask yourselves if there is something you or your partner could do to help each other, Scotolati suggests taking turns cooking, ordering healthy meal-prep kits and coordinating shopping lists.
GET YOUR COMPETITIVE JUICES FLOWING
Sometimes, a hearty dose of competition can be just what you need to kick your motivation up a notch. “Having someone close to you trying to achieve a similar health goal may introduce an element of competition,” says Jackson. That, she adds, “may help to keep you on track when you might otherwise have let yourself have ‘just one’ cigarette or high-calorie meal or encourage you to push yourself that bit harder in the gym to keep up with your partner.”
MAKE IT FUN
Scotolati suggests finding a way to make achieving a goal such as exercising fun by infusing it with a social outing. “Stretch together, walk together, clean/do housework together, dance, go bowling, play golf, tennis, get bikes and explore your neighborhood and parks,” he suggests. All of these activities burn calories, but you might not even notice the burn, as they double as fantastic date nights.
Instead of just saying that you both want to lose weight and then going off on your own, personal trainer and wellness coach Amanda Dale recommends that couples commit to trying a new workout routine together. Training together “can provide the external accountability some couples need to put their money where their mouth is and commit to shaping up together,” she says. If you’d rather not share that much, online apps like Trainerize or DietBet “can help keep couples on track and allow them to work toward a common goal together, even if their diet and workout methods are tailored individually to them,” she says.
SET A MUTUAL REWARD
Another important element of getting healthy is extrinsic motivation, which means establishing rewards for targets reached. “As a couple, set up small rewards for consistent healthy behaviors, such as a new set of athletic clothes after cooking at home 10 times — and outcome-based targets such as a weekend trip after losing 15 pounds,” says certified strength and conditioning coach Mike Clancy. “People are best motivated by rewards instead of fear, and they’re more likely to stick to the plan when they feel empowered instead of belittled.”
FIND THE SEXINESS IN YOUR GOAL
Getting sweaty with your partner can do far more than just sculpt your body. “Working out releases certain hormones that can be invigorating and lead to a feeling of confidence and even sexiness,” says Jonathan Alpert, a psychotherapist and author of “Be Fearless: Change Your Life in 28 Days.” “Endorphins are produced in the brain and released during exercise, and exercise also stimulates the production of dopamine, which can lead to increased feelings of pleasure — a high, almost. This plays a major role in mood.”
Not in a relationship? No problem. You can still better your chances of completing a health goal by teaming up with a friend. “The advantages to working out with another person are well documented and significant. Humans are social animals and we are at our best when we are a member of a team or community,” says Stan Beechman, PhD, a sports psychologist and author of “Elite Minds: How Winners Think Differently.”
Too busy to coordinate schedules with a pal? Check in via phone calls, text and emails to keep each other on track. A study by the University of Pennsylvania revealed that even holding yourself accountable to your social media peers is enough to help you adhere to your fitness routine.
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