Did you know you're more likely to adopt healthy habits if your significant other does too? Learn why this happens, and ways you can encourage your partner to get fit together.
The perks of being part of a romantic couple are many.
Even just a simple touch from our partner’s hand can be enough to alleviate physical pain.
Couples tend to parallel each others’ habits, especially when it comes to health. Have a spouse who smokes or gorges on sweets? Chances are higher you do too.
But overwhelming research shows that people are much more likely to make healthier changes to their lives if their partners do as well.
Probably the smartest, most useful way couples can harness this unique and powerful influence is by supporting each other in making positive, lasting behavioral changes to prevent disease and enjoy a long and quality life together.
Understanding the Kohler Effect
So what is it exactly that makes us want to work harder when there is someone by our side?
Researchers believe this impulse can be explained by the “Kohler Effect.”
The Kohler Effect explains that when people work together on a task under the right conditions, their motivation for completing the task increases more than if they were working at it alone.
This happens for two reasons. First, the least skilled group members compare themselves to the others, motivating them to work doubly hard to perform as well as, or even better than, their more capable teammates.
Second, each team member perceives his or her own efforts as being highly critical for the team’s success, so they work even harder to keep up and achieve their goal.
Couples getting fit together: what does the research show?
Analyzing the behavior of thousands of couples who lost weight together, as well as individuals who gained health in partner-driven settings, researchers have confirmed that those who exercise alongside a partner fare much better than those who exercise on their own.
One recent study found that among previously inactive, obese couples, individuals were over 5 times more likely to become physically active during the same period their spouse was also active, and 3 times more likely to lose weight if their spouse lost weight as well.
A second study confirmed this mirroring effect, following the fitness patterns of 3,261 married couples during a 6 year period and showing that when wives completed an exercise activity, their husbands were 70% more likely to complete the same activity during a follow-up visit.
Yet a third study showed that women who were paired with a partner and whose efforts had an active role in determining the team’s performance exercised 11.29 minutes and cycled 9.14 minutes longer than those who exercised alone.
The 7 ways partners can positively influence fitness goals
Partners have an extraordinary ability to motivate each other to get fit and healthy. Want to learn how to better support your partner? Master these science-backed ways to cheer him or her on and realize better health together.
1. Make it easy for your partner to eat healthy. Suggest nutritious food options and make healthy choices that benefit your partner. Cook your partner wholesome meals and share your own experiences with healthy eating or weight loss.
2. Offer encouragement. Boost your partner’s motivation by encouraging trips to the gym and giving helpful advice about how to eat smarter. Even leaving your partner an uplifting note saying “Have a good run today, and don’t forget your healthy snack!” will go a long way in keeping his or her spirits up. The key is to help each other stay on track by promoting actions that will lead to success.
3. Provide emotional support and positive reinforcement. Bolster your partner’s self-esteem by expressing pride in his or her efforts and progress. Maintain a positive attitude about the process and verbalize encouragement when things get tough.
4. Exercise together. Rearrange your schedule so that you can exercise with your partner. Go to the gym together, walk or hike together, and set fitness goals together. Exercising as a couple can simply be more fun.
5. Enable your partner’s exercise. Allow your partner time for exercise by taking care of children or chores around the house, and buying fitness equipment for easy access at home.
6. Eat healthy together. Plan nutritious meals with your partner and agree to cook more together at home. Be willing to make sacrifices like food substitutions to help your partner maintain a healthy approach to eating.
7. Maintain a sense of accountability. Feeling accountable to your relationship and fostering a bit of healthy competition to keep up with your partner’s progress can help you stay motivated to keep going.