What role does a spouse or significant other play in helping you lead a healthy lifestyle? More than you might think. Eating a healthy diet is more challenging if you have a partner whose go-to diet is pizza and chips, especially if your partner does the grocery shopping and cooking. In the same way, a significant other whose idea of exercise is walking to the car to go to work or across the living room to turn off the television could make it a little harder for you to stick with your exercise program.
Get Your Partner Involved
According to a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, people who pursue their health and fitness goals with the help of a partner are more likely to be successful. Researchers looked at information collected on over 3,700 middle-aged and older couples over a decade. The participants completed questionnaires about their health habits and underwent a physical exam several times over the course of the study.
By the end of the study, researchers found couples were more likely to have made positive lifestyle changes when both members of the couple took part. There’s power in numbers! For example, only about 25% of people in the study became physically active when their partner didn’t, but the chance of success rose significantly when both partners began exercising. In fact, the success rate rose to 75%.
Similarly, when both husband and wife committed to losing weight, the success rate was higher than when only the husband or wife embarked on a journey to lose weight. Even when it comes to bad habits like smoking, this study showed the chance of success is greater when a partner is committed too.
In this study, having a partner who made healthy lifestyle choices, stayed active and didn’t smoke increased the chance that the other partner would be more active and kick the smoking habit as well. What about weight loss success? When both partners were overweight and one lost weight, the other was three times more likely to successfully lose weight. On the other hand, already having a slender partner without weight issues wasn’t motivation enough to get the overweight partner to lose weight.
As researchers point out, we’re influenced by the company we keep and that extends to the health choices we make as well. It’s a little easier to reach health and fitness goals when the person you live with and spend most of your time with is on board with what you’re doing.
Help Your Partner Get Healthy
What if your partner doesn’t see eye to eye with you about fitness and nutrition? You might be tempted to nag a little and point out the unhealthy lifestyle choices they’re making – but that approach can backfire on you. Don’t try to do a major lifestyle overhaul on your partner all at once. This approach could backfire. Try incremental changes instead. If you’re trying to get your partner to eat healthier and you do most of the cooking, add an extra vegetable to meals and slowly make other healthy changes to what the two of you are eating. Prepare your partner’s favorite foods, but reduce the amount of sugar and calories in them by modifying the recipe.
Get creative with the foods you prepare for the two of you. Invest in a light and healthy cookbook and try new recipes. When you hit upon something your partner likes, take note of it and prepare it in the future. Gradually, you’ll develop a collection of recipes that are healthy and tasty enough for both of you to enjoy.
Gradually Introduce Exercise
Try the incremental approach when trying to get your partner to be more active. Start by taking a short walk together after dinner. Once your partner is comfortable with that, do some resistance exercises with bands or dumbbells together when you get back from your walk. Point out the health benefits that even 10 minutes of high-intensity exercise offers. Almost anyone can exercise for that length of time!
Do Tabatas or other forms of high-intensity interval training together, but keep the workouts short at first. Gradually increase the length. If you try to get your partner to exercise an hour a day in the beginning, you’ll likely meet with resistance. Take it slow at first.
Set a Good Example for a Healthy Lifestyle
Even if you meet with resistance at first, don’t get discouraged. When your partner sees how much energy you have, they too may see the benefits of leading a healthy lifestyle. Don’t forget to positively reinforce your significant other when they make healthy choices.
Finally, be flexible. It’s okay to lighten up a little and have pizza occasionally. When you do that you show that eating healthy doesn’t necessarily mean giving up all comfort foods. Have a cheat meal together once a week. Living a healthy lifestyle should be flexible and fun. Don’t make it an “all or none” thing.
The Bottom Line?
Getting healthy with your partner is beneficial for both of you. Give your partner a gentle “nudge,” but don’t nag. Small, gradual healthy lifestyle changes are easier to accept and stick with long term. Most importantly, be an inspiration for your spouse or significant other to get up off the couch!
Health Day. “Want to Get Healthy, Get Your Partner Involved”
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