As a society, we generally want to change two things: the health of our bodies and the health of our relationships. For example, in any given year, Americans are spending millions of dollars on health and nutrition programs. As technology advances, so do our abilities to strive for better health. Devices such as Fitbit, which track daily activity, have become popular, with sales mounting well over 10 million devices worldwide.
While many of us want to be healthier, most couples also want to have high quality relationships. Many people don’t know that these two goals are related to one another, and they tend to pursue them separately. However, decades of research show that there is a strong association between physical health and our relationships.
- Stress in a relationship is linked with developing hypertension (high blood pressure).
- Having a high quality relationship is associated with overall less stress.
- Couples in high quality relationships are less likely to suffer from depression, and even heal better from surgery.
- Forgiveness, a critical component in successful relationships, actually improves one’s health more than taking Tylenol.
Because of the benefits of high relationship health and physical health, it is critical to “workout” both of these aspects of your life.
Unfortunately, there is only so much time in the day to work on both your physical health and relationships. So why not combine the two! Below are some tips:
- Workout Together: This might seem crazy because many times partners have different exercise routines, but give this a try for part of your workout! For example, rather than going on a walk by yourself to get exercise, try to include your partner in your workout routine. This can be a way to catch up on your day, while also being physically active. This way, you are working on both aspects of your health. Next time you are going to work out, think of how you can incorporate your partner and make it a bonding experience for both of you!
- Healthy Eating Together: Choosing to eat healthy foods can be really hard when you are the only one doing it. Instead, try to make your food choices into a fun activity with your partner. For example, cook a new healthy dish together.
- Be Supportive: Emotional support is critical when anyone is trying to make a change in their life. Therefore, showing support for your partner’s health and goals are very important. This could be something tangible like making a healthy change in their diet with them, or just making sure they know you believe in them! For example, you could state your admiration for their commitment to a healthy lifestyle, or come up with your own ideas to show support – you know your partner and the key is making sure to do what works for you and your partner. Just remember to always be turning towards your partner’s bids when they need help and support with their physical health.
These are just a few ways that you can improve your physical health and relationships at the same time. By focusing on both of these, you will be able to “workout” and improve key aspects of your health. For more information on ways to enhance your relationship, please see our Resources list!
Brabury T. N., & Karney B. R. (2014). Love me slender. New York, NY: Touchstone.
Fincham, F. D., May, R. W., & Sanchez-Gonzalez, M. A. (2015). Forgiveness and cardiovascular functioning in married couples. Couple and Family Psychology: Research and Practice, 4, 39-48.
Gottman, J., & Silver, N. (2015). The seven principles for making marriage work: A practical guide from the country's foremost relationship expert. Harmony.
Kim. E. (2015, May, 8). Fitbits Growth has been Astounding. Retrieved from http://www.businessinsider.com/fitbit-astounding-growth-in-paid-active-users-and-devices-sold-2015-5
Kiecolt-Glaser, J. K., Fisher, L. D., Ogrocki, P., Stout, J. C., Speicher, C. E., & Glaser, R. (1987). Marital quality, marital disruption, and immune function. Psychosomatic Medicine, 49, 13-34.
Neff, L. A., Beer J. S., Eastwick, P. W. (2015). Understanding age-related changes in relationship maintenance strategies [Award number 1451492]. Retrieved from https://www.nsf.gov/awardsearch/showAward?AWD_ID=1451492&HistoricalAwards=false
Umberson, D., Williams, K., Powers, D. A., Chen, M. D., & Campbell, A. M. (2005). As good as it gets? A life course perspective on marital quality. Social Forces, 84, 493-511.
Wickrama, K. A. S., Lorenz, F. O., Wallace, L. E., Peiris, L., Conger, R. D., & Elder, G. H. (2001). Family influence on physical health during the middle years: The case of onset of hypertension. Journal of Marriage and Family,63, 527-539.