From spin to high intensity training, cycling across hilltops to a five kilometer park run, couples are now exercising together more than ever before. And research shows that there’s more to exercising than getting fit; it can help couples to build connection and have fun.
1. Improve staying power and motivation
Physically challenging activities with your partner boost your energy output and staying power. Encouraging comments and support provide the motivation and knowledge that you’re in this together. Plus, you’re more likely to follow through on your plans to exercise when you do so together. You don’t want to be the one who lets the side down, after all.
2. Boost arousal
More than this though, sharing exercise can result in increased relationship satisfaction. It may well be your body’s physical response to exercise rather than the sight of your partner gasping for breath and dripping with sweat that stirs romantic attraction. But lab studies nevertheless suggest that a racing pulse can stir romantic feelings and boost arousal all the same – and partner attraction is certainly good news for your relationship.
3. Increase quality time together
Do you and your partner exercise together? It’s not all about wall-to-wall weights and feeling the burn - a stroll in the park or shared dog walk also count. It’s the sharing of activities that is important here – so a good place to start might be a ‘get up and go’ date.
4. Be present with each other
There’s also added value in exercise that connects with nature. In my research on long-term couple relationships, many couples highly valued getting outdoors both for the fresh air and exercise, and also because it connected them with nature. This connection provided an opportunity for mindfulness and grounding. Can you recall the last time you simply went for a walk, with no agenda other than to enjoy the moment and be with your partner?
Your challenge for today, then, is to exercise together. Enjoy this couple time and maybe try to coordinate your actions – match your walking pace, or perfect your Argentinian tango footwork. Such nonverbal mimicry can help you and your partner to bond and feel emotionally attuned.
Jacqui is Professor of Sociology and Intimacy at The Open University in the UK and Chief Relationships Officer at Paired.
Her 'Enduring Love?' study on long-term couple relationships has received widespread critical acclaim, with findings being reported in national and international media, including: BBC World News, CNN, the New York Post, and more.
Her research and impact activities have been recognised by three prestigious awards: the BSA Philip Abrams Memorial prize (2009, the Open University Engaging Research Award (2014), the Evelyn Gillian Research Impact Award (2016).