Study: Exercising with a romantic partner increases happiness

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Whether you go to a concert, watch a movie or just go for a walk, people in love like to do things together. Indeed, romantic couples love to discover shared goals, interests or hobbies, for example travelling, lifelong learning, achieving financial independence or living a healthy lifestyle.

Could engaging in these activities together have additional benefits, in terms of increased happiness and relationship satisfaction?

Yes. In fact, a recent study has shown that there are benefits to: sports together. The research, conducted by Sackett-Fox and colleagues, was published in the November 2021 issue Journal of Social and Personal Relations. It was found that individuals who exercise with their romantic partner experienced a better mood during exercise, a better mood during the day and a higher degree of relationship satisfaction.

Research into the benefits of exercising with a romantic partner

The data came from a sample of 95 college students who were in romantic relationships and who exercised on a somewhat regular basis (two to three times a week). Most were white (94 percent) and female (91 percent), with a mean age of 20.3 years (range 18 to 35 years) and relationship duration of 1.9 years (range two weeks to 6.3 years ).

Measures included an online survey, lab tasks, daily reports for two weeks, and additional questions at the end of the study.

A total of 1,049 nightly surveys were completed (79 percent completion rate), of which 568 were completed on the same day as the participants exercised. On average, the participants practiced for 4.7 days without their romantic partner, but 1.3 days with their romantic partner.

In addition to questions about daily exercise, the following matters were also investigated:

  • Emotions during exercise: happy, good, pleasant, unhappy, bad or unpleasant.
  • Daily Mood: Same descriptions as above.
  • Relationship Satisfaction: Agreement, on a seven-point scale, with the item: “Today I was satisfied with my relationship.”

Potential Benefits of Exercising with a Romantic Partner

The results showed that compared to exercising without a romantic partner (e.g. exercising alone, with friends, with strangers), exercising together with a romantic partner had a number of positive effects.

Exercising together with a romantic partner was associated with greater positive mood during exercise – aside from the happiness boost resulting from the exercise itself – and it correlated with higher positive mood (but not reduced negative mood) during the day. Finally, it had to do with greater relationship satisfaction.

Why relationship satisfaction? Perhaps because couples who exercise together engage in an activity that is both fun and rewarding. For example, exercise helps them progress toward health goals, such as maintaining an active lifestyle.

What mechanisms might explain the mood improvements that result from exercising with a romantic partner? This probably involves support, especially emotional and social support.

However, sometimes the apparent support is more of a social control strategy. For example, a person who accompanies his or her partner to the gym may consciously try to encourage their partner to exercise more often.

This social control strategy, the authors note, may involve: positive attempts at social control, such as “encouraging the partner or making it easier for the partner to participate in physical activity by getting together and planning events that take exercise time into account.” Using negative However, attempts at social control “such as pressuring them or making them feel guilty” can “backfire and instead result in less exercise.”

There were some unexpected findings in the current study. For example, practicing with a romantic partner did: not reduce negative mood and unhappiness. The authors speculate that this was due to a floor effect, meaning that levels of negative mood in the sample were already low enough, so the presence of a romantic partner could not further reduce negative emotions. In addition, a reduction in negative mood may have been easier to detect with more intense and intense exercise routines, which are often perceived as more unpleasant, compared to low- or moderate-intensity exercise.


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Building a healthy relationship with exercise

If you are not motivated to exercise, consider the following three points: First, previous research shows: exercise has numerous physical and mental health benefits (eg, better memory, pain relief, improved erectile dysfunction).

Second, regardless of the type of physical activity (e.g. jogging, walking, dancing, tennis) or goal (e.g. losing weight, getting fit, diabetes management), sports in itself can be fun. This is especially true for exercising the right intensity and frequency for the kind of physical activity that excites you. So find your passion, be it yoga, nature walking, kayaking, horseback riding, etc. Do what you love, because the fun of the activity provides the motivation to start and continue the exercise.

Realistically, of course, you won’t always be able to engage in the kind of exercise you enjoy most. Due to the weather, financial concerns, lack of time or other factors, you can settle for all the exercises available, be it indoor cycling at the gym, running or just working out at home. Worse, there will be times when you feel so stressed, anxious, depressed, or emotionally drained that you lack the motivation or mental energy to go to the gym or even exercise at home. How do you motivate yourself to exercise at such times?

This brings us to our third point: One way to motivate yourself is by: exercise with your partner. The surveyed research suggests that exercising with one’s romantic partner or spouse is associated with: a better mood during the training session and during the day, as well as higher relationship satisfaction.

From a psychological perspective, times of stress are often times when exercise is particularly beneficial and helps us deal with our problems more effectively. The emotional and relationship benefits of spending time with our loved ones — in addition to the joys and physical and mental health benefits of exercise itself — can help us not only deal more effectively with our stressors, but also maintain a healthy intimate relationship. build and maintain. relation.

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