Have you ever felt like your motivation to exercise improved when you worked out with a partner? Now there’s science to back up your theory! A study presented at the European Society of Cardiology Congress in 2020 suggests that working out with a spouse or partner may significantly boost your fitness success.
This research from the Netherlands was inspired by a study from 2017, which showed that heart-attack survivors who took part in programs for weight loss, physical activity, and smoking intervention were more likely to change their at-home behaviors than those who received guideline-based care. In a fascinating twist, scientists learned that in both groups, participants who lived with a partner were more likely to change their unhealthy habits.
As a result, researchers conducted a 2020 follow-up study to better understand the link between partners and healthy habits, in which 824 patients took part in the research with 411 patients in the intervention group.
Each participant in the intervention group was referred to up to three lifestyle programs to lose weight, increase exercise, and quit smoking. A Weight Watchers coach led the weight-loss group, holding weekly sessions for a year. The exercise group participants were required to wear Philips Direct Life accelerometers for the same amount of time. The smoking cessation group received varenicline (a drug to wean patients off nicotine), motivational interviews by telephone from professionals, and additional prevention assistance.
The spouses or partners of the participants were encouraged but not required to attend the programs.
The results were promising. Patients with a participating partner were over twice as likely to improve in at least one intervention program in comparison to those who attended alone. In fact, patients with participating spouses or significant others were twice as likely to lose 5 percent of their body mass index (BMI).
It’s important to recognize that active participation, and not just the passive support of a partner, made a dramatic difference. According to investigators, this may be because couples usually have very similar lifestyles that become ingrained as they grow older. Changing these habits can be quite difficult if only one half of a couple makes the effort. Such people wanting to make healthy changes face not only tangible issues, such as grocery shopping for two different diets, but intangible issues, such as decreased motivation without the active support of a partner.
Fortunately, these challenges are easier to conquer with even just one partner or buddy. If you’re ready to make healthy lifestyle changes that last for years to come, get someone in your inner circle involved! Bond your weight-loss journey to the journey of your spouse or your friend and you might discover the extra push you needed.