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The couple that works out together stays together?

Relationship on the skids? It’s time to hit the gym together

A growing body of evidence suggests couples who sweat together really do stay together

Reprinted from the Sunday Times, by Devlin Brown – 2021-08-29

You may be familiar with the expression that an apple a day keeps the doctor away. It’s outdated and not entirely true. Apparently a workout with your spouse a day keeps the divorce lawyer away, and it’s backed by science.

Recently I stumbled on this in a Psychology Today article referencing nine studies that have found that training with a spouse comes with the added bonus of a stronger relationship. Who would have thought that intimacy could in any way be associated with hill sprints or metabolic conditioning circuits?

I certainly wouldn’t read into anything for you, but perhaps he’s holding up a red, or if you are unlucky, checkered flag.

The article is headlined “Five reasons why couples who sweat together, stay together”. The author says: “It’s time you consider how physical fitness can benefit not only your own health and wellbeing, but also your romantic relationship. Why not grab your partner’s hand and invite him or her to be your workout partner as well? A growing body of evidence suggests that couples who sweat together really do stay together.” Each benefit is backed up by at least one or two peer-reviewed studies.

Let’s dig a little deeper. The first benefit, says the author, is it will increase your happiness in the relationship. “Lab studies show that after jointly participating in an exciting physical challenge or activity, couples report feeling more satisfied with their relationships and more in love with their partner,” writes the author. If that weren’t enough, she says: “Taking regular runs together, ballroom dancing, or having a date night at the gym can boost the quality of your romantic relationship.”

The next reason is an improvement in the efficiency of workouts. The studies suggest the mere presence of your partner will improve focus, speed and performance. To demonstrate that the author does, in fact, have one foot planted in reality, she suggests trying a new, complicated activity alone because the presence of a spouse may “interfere with your ability to complete a challenging task”.

The next benefit is, in the author’s words: “Make your partner fall in love with you.” We contend that you should have done that before becoming a spouse, but nevertheless, she writes: “Exercise induces the symptoms of physiological arousal — sweaty hands, a racing pulse, shortness of breath. These symptoms mirror, in many ways, the thrill of romantic attraction. Interestingly, people can easily mistake the two and misattribute physical arousal for romantic attraction.” That’s it, we’re never going to a public gym again.

The fourth benefit is that training together helps you achieve your goals because you share them as a couple, enjoying the benefit of an at-home support network. The author cautions against “outsourcing” your own fitness responsibility to your spouse.

The final benefit is an increased emotional bond. This is more about what is left unsaid. “You might lift weights in rhythm with your partner, match your own walking or running pace … Nonverbal mimicry helps people feel emotionally attuned with one another, and those who experience or engage in it tend to report greater feelings of having ‘bonded’ with their partner.”

Another study, dating back to when Alanis Morissette was still angry, looked at couples who trained together. It found that of those who did so, the majority were still at it after a year (the website Eat This, Not That says the number is 92%), compared with a 50% dropout rate for couples who worked out separately.

Don’t read your spouse’s request badly. Maybe he intuitively wants to include you in an activity that will be good for your relationship or maybe he wants to be held accountable. That’s what a training partner does — he or she keeps you on the wagon. Who better than a scowling spouse reminding you that you didn’t show up?

Either way, take up the offer. It will keep you both on the wagon and, who knows, what you do in the wagon may be more rewarding.


But if all else fails…

If you’ve tried everything and have decided that divorce is the best option, Cape Town law firm SD Law can help. Sometimes divorce allows all parties to move forward with their lives, including the children. If you want to discuss your options, we are a law firm in Cape Town with extensive experience of helping couples divorce with dignity. Contact family lawyer Simon Dippenaar on 086 099 5146 or email sdippenaar@sdlaw.co.za.

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The information on this website is provided to assist the reader with a general understanding of the law. While we believe the information to be factually accurate, and have taken care in our preparation of these pages, these articles cannot and do not take individual circumstances into account and are not a substitute for personal legal advice. If you have a legal matter that concerns you, please consult a qualified attorney. Simon Dippenaar & Associates takes no responsibility for any action you may take as a result of reading the information contained herein (or the consequences thereof), in the absence of professional legal advice.