February is often filled with expensive gifts and delicious treats, but let’s do something different this year: take the next step with your partner and commit to starting a new health routine. You’ll be giving a gift to both yourself AND your partner.
Though healthy for your soul, studies have shown that long-term relationships can be synonymous with weight gain and new unhealthy habits (1) (2). It happens slowly; you meet, fall in love, and things change - you slide into a lifestyle less focused on healthy living and more focused on each other. Staying in shape and getting the proper nutrition simply become a lower priority than when you were single.
Why does this happen? Most research agrees that behavior is simply contagious. When you are in a relationship, cohabiting or otherwise, you are more likely to engage in the same activities and have similar nutrition.
The good news is that this contagious behavior can also help propel positive health changes!
Make a Healthy Lifestyle Change - Together!
Getting healthy together could not only bring you closer, but could provide you with better results than going at it alone.
A Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness study found that married couples exercising together had significantly higher attendance and lower dropout rates than other groups.
In fact, couples who exercised together are nearly 7x more likely to stay committed to an exercise program than other participants not working out as a couple.
Alexandra Davis and her husband Ryan Gleason, both 31 from Massachusetts, and co-creators of the couple’s wellness site, Ryan and Alex Duo Life, agree: “Working out as a couple has been instrumental in our health and fitness. A significant factor [for us] is the accountability you get when your better half is waiting on you to work out.”
Not only does exercising with your partner ensure higher commitment, but another study shows it also makes you push harder. The results: working out as a couple can up your individual performance by as much as 200%!
Partners can positively influence each other beyond fitness as well. Sarah Jackson, a psychologist from the University College London and a team of researchers found that people are more “successful in swapping bad habits for good ones if their partner made a change as well.” The study found that both men and women lose more weight, exercise more, and are more likely to quit smoking if their partner joined them in their health goals.
Lynell Ross, Certified Health and Wellness Coach and Behavior Change Specialist, and founder of Zivadream agrees: “When people incorporate several lifestyle changes such as drinking more water and less alcohol, taking vitamins, eating healthier and exercising, it helps to have a partner doing the same things as you. We are social creatures and become like who we spend the most time with.”
Claire Shaner, 22 from Utah, embarked on “no junk January” with her husband where they committed to not eating any dessert or junk food for an entire month.
“Making this healthy change with my partner was easier than making this kind of change by myself. It wasn't just a personal commitment, it was a marital commitment. If I messed up, I wasn't just cheating my diet, I was letting my husband down. Both my husband and I did great at our goal! I'm a big supporter of making healthy changes with your partner.”
But, Make Your Health Routine Personal
Committing to a healthier lifestyle as a couple, does not mean it has to be a one-size-fits-all approach. Everyone is different - down to their DNA, so each partner’s nutrition, exercise, and lifestyle habits should be tailored to what will work best for them.
On the nutrition side, for example, one person could be lactose intolerant (due to a LCT gene mutation) and have to take calcium supplements for proper nutrition, while the other partner has an abundance of calcium in their diet from eating dairy - no supplement needed.
Looking at exercise, one partner could have genetics that dictate easier weight loss with cardio, whereas the other partner could benefit more from weight lifting.
The best advice: choose a few overarching health goals that work for both of you (e.g. eat less junk food) and tailor the approach individually from there.
Changes May Come With Challenges
Being “all in” on making a healthy change doesn’t look the same for everyone. If you are making a change together and personalizing your journeys, then each partner’s approach is bound to be different. Because of this, Ross highlights a few key things to remember:
- Never nag or push your partner. No one likes to be told what to do.
- Don't lecture or preach. People do better when they learn for themselves.
- Don't pressure your partner. If they don't feel like going out for that run, heading to the gym, or eating their broccoli, leave them alone. We need to do things on our own time.
Communication and compromise is key.
Overall, “Having an accountability buddy helps a lot of people form better habits,” shares Rebecca Ogle, Licensed Clinical Social Worker and psychotherapist, but make sure you are supporting and communicating effectively to make it work for the long term.
Tips and Tricks for Getting Health Together
- Date night at home. Decide to cook a healthy dish together instead of going out to avoid unwanted calories and tasty temptations.
- Get active. Find an activity you like doing together - like walking, hiking, playing tennis, etc. anything that can get you moving is great!
- Skip the Alcohol. Instead of indulging together at the end of the day, consider a new habit like tea or a bubble bath
Need an easy way to support healthy nutrition in a personalized way?
Consider Rootine, where we build a custom vitamin regimen for each individual based on their DNA, blood level, and lifestyle data. Sign up with your partner and get the immediate benefit of support!