Everywhere in the country, people go to the gym every day, develop yoga mats, hammer on the sidewalk, and register for new fitness challenges.
Maybe they shouldn’t do it alone.
It’s time to consider how physical fitness benefits not only your health and well-being, but also your romantic relationship. Take your partner’s hand and invite him to be your partner. Growing evidence shows that couples who sweat together really stay together. In fact, teamwork can:
1: Increase your happiness with your relationship. Laboratory research shows that couples, after participating in physical challenges or interesting activities, feel that they are happier and love their partners more (Aron, Norman, Aron & Heyman, 2000). Exercise is a perfect example of the kind of encouraging activity this positive effect can produce. Romantic appeal stimulates physiological arousal rather than novelty or challenging activities (Lewandowski, & Aron, 2004). This shows that sharing fitness goals (such as 5 km or triathlon workouts), running regularly, ballroom dancing, or fitness meetings can improve the quality of your romantic relationships.
2: Improve your training performance. The old concept in social psychology is that the presence of another person influences your ability to carry out activities (Zajonc, 1965). Even if you already feel competent for certain exercises, winning your romantic partner can be a fantastic way to increase your energy. The presence of your partner will increase your speed without regard to its influence (Bond & Titus, 1983). (However, if you only learn how to build groups or operate new elliptical trainer machines, it is better to maintain a solo experience first, in this case the presence of your partner can influence your ability to do challenging tasks (Zajonc, 1965.) Take the time to master the exercise and then invite your partner to improve performance.)
3: Let your partner fall in love with you. This exercise causes symptoms of physiological arousal – sweating hands, palpitations, shortness of breath. These symptoms in many ways reflect the sensation of romantic attraction. Interestingly, humans can easily confuse the two and mistakenly distribute physical arousal to romantic attraction (Dutton & Aron, 1974). Use this phenomenon to your advantage by inviting your romantic interests to work with you. The result? The possibility of increasing your attractiveness in his eyes.
4: To help you reach your fitness goals. When couples maintain fitness – theirs and their partners’ – it becomes easier to achieve fitness goals. A recent study of heterosexual couples found that middle-aged couples who stay in shape are more physically active when their partners make comments about better health (Skoyen, Blank, Corkery & Butler, 2013). Sharing the daily ups and downs of the morning, difficult bicycles, or busy Zumba classes can provide the perfect context for such comments. One note: don’t rely too much (or exclusively) on your partner when it comes to your own fitness goals. Outsourcing the mental effort needed to achieve fitness goals can reduce your own efforts (Fitzsimons & Finkel, 2011).
5: Improve your emotional connection. When you work together, you create a context where you can coordinate. For example, you can use your partner to lift weights, set your own pace while walking or running, or throw your medicine ball. Such behavior leads to chance or non-verbal mimicry that benefits you (Stel & Vonk, 2010). Nonverbal mimicry helps people feel emotionally in harmony with one another, and those who experience or participate in it tend to report a stronger sense of “connection” with their partner. Exercising together makes it possible to create connections that benefit your health and relationships.
In short, fitness can be for you or for you and your partner. Share these aspects of your life regularly or just for the occasion, and find out how they bring a new dimension to your relationship and new life.