Exercise as a Couple and Double Your Results

Dr. John Raglin
Bottom Line Health

You know all about the motivational advantages to working out with an exercise buddy, but are they the same when the buddy is your spouse or life partner? The answer is yes and perhaps more so. Working out with your spouse or partner can strengthen your relationship along with your muscles. Here’s how to start off on the right foot.

Commit to an Exercise plan

Sticking with an exercise program isn’t easy. The average dropout rate is 50%, most often after just a few months. But exercising with your significant other can change that. I studied married people who joined a fitness program by themselves and as a couple. After 12 months, the couples had a better-than-90% adherence rate—that’s remarkably high when you consider average adherence is about 50% after 12 months for people joining without their spouse. Most interesting was that they didn’t need to be doing the exact same exercise program, provided they went to the gym together, so the issue of “he’s stronger than I am” or “I don’t like the same machines” doesn’t matter. You don’t have to work out side by side—you just have to make the commitment to exercise at the same time and place. For busy working couples, it even can create date-night closeness. It’s a terrific alternative to sitting silently in a movie. 

Keys for Exercise Success

Account for your differences. Most couples have different fitness ­levels, and you need to create a plan that accounts for those. If you’re working out with machines in a gym, it’s easy to simply go together for a set period of time or go to a class together. But if you want to go running or biking together and one of you can handle a greater pace and distance than the other, you’ll have to make accommodations. Try this: Agree to separate distance goals. Start off together at the same speed, but pick a point where the person with less stamina will stop and allow the other to continue or where the one who is in front will pause and wait for his/her partner. Hint: Make your route a repetitive loop that goes past your car or your home to make it convenient for one person to stop if needed. Don’t put yourselves in the position of having to navigate differences on the fly when one of you suddenly runs out of gas at the midway point of the route.