It’s been said that “a good marriage is a long conversation that always seems too short”. Perhaps it’s because of this companionship that getting hitched boasts such a bevy of health benefits. Recent research shows that married couples report higher level of happiness, better cancer survival rates, more sex, less loneliness, and longer lifespans than their single counterparts.
But, if these aforementioned long conversations are more likely to happen over an indulgent meal than a shared workout, beware. A 2016 study of nearly 2,000 married couples indicated one hefty downside to marriage: a larger waistline. Men in the study were nearly twice as likely to be obese, while both women and men that were married worked out less (approximately 47 minutes less per week) than their married counterparts.
So, what’s a health conscious but happily betrothed couple to do? As it turns out, there is a silver lining in all this. A study presented by Johns Hopkins researchers that analyzed the data of questionnaires completed by 3,261 middle aged couples 6 years apart. It showed that while married couples typically have overall lower exercise rates, it only takes one person to in the relationship to sway the trend in a positive direction. For example, if you (but not your spouse) breaks a sweat on a regular basis, your better half is up to 70% more likely to meet minimum exercise recommendations in the future–so long as you keep up the good work. This effect was maintained, regardless of whether the husband or the wife was the original fitness buff. Conversely, if either spouse gave up their exercise regimen, the other was more likely to follow suit. The implication is that your exercise behavior has an outsized impact on that of your spouse.
My partner still won’t exercise!
Sometimes, it seems that despite best intentions, it’s impossible to get your partner off the couch. Here are 5 ways to get moving together!
1. Don’t get discouraged
Remember, changing habits can take time. Before a habit change like regular exercise “sticks” there is a progression of stages, including a contemplation phase. It’s during this time that your spouse becomes aware of the habit and develops a desire to change. It’s ok to ask questions about his/her interest level and make suggestions, but avoid being pushy…it might just slow down the timeline.
2. Better Together
Suggest activity that you can both do together–activities that he/she feels confident in or are new to both of you can be a good starting ground, particularly if the person new to exercise feels intimidated. For example, if one of you is an elite runner, start with some strength work in the gym to “level the playing field”, so to speak. Even if you ultimately go your separate ways at the gym or when pounding the pavement, the first few weeks are highly formative, so help your partner ease in. This can mean sharing a warm up or cool down, changing your schedule slightly to match their availability, or even temporarily slowing down to match paces. Over time, you’ll figure out the best exercise format to suit both your needs.
3. Keep it Light
There are plenty of workouts that don’t “feel like exercise” that can make for a perfect date night. Ice or roller skating, yoga, hiking for starters. Or, introducing the idea of a “racecation”, that is combining a race–such as a 5k or 10k–with a destination vacation, can be a great way to inspire your partner to start walking or running regularly.
4. Be a Problem Solver
Among the common reasons people give for not exercising are lack of time and energy. Have an honest and empathetic conversations with your partner to analyze if there are time or workload restrictions that you can help alleviate. Good advice for whether your goal is to strengthen your core or your marriage–or both!
5. Keep on Keepin’ on
As the Johns Hopkins partner study indicates, one of the most important things you can do for both of you is to keep up your own routine. Modeling positive habits is one of the most important motivators–and the only one which you can fully control.
Katya Meyers is a pro triathlete turned ultra runner, new mom, and health coach living in sunny San Diego. With a Human Biology degree from Stanford University, Masters in Public Health, and ACSM Health & Fitness Specialist certifications, she loves geeking out on the science and psychology that help her clients achieve phenomenal results–from 90 lb weight loss to top Ironman finishes. You can learn more about her online coaching services at www.katyameyers.com. Get world class fitness tips you can do everyday…anywhere, follow along on Instagram or Twitter.