Spouses who work out together stay together. Well, not really. But a study does show spouses who work out together are onto something good. Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that if one spouse begins to exercise or amps up an existing workout routine, their spouse is much more likely to follow in their footsteps.
“When it comes to physical fitness, the best peer pressure to get moving could be coming from the person who sits across from you at the breakfast table,” says Laura Cobb, a Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health doctoral student and co-author of the research. “There’s an epidemic of people in this country who don’t get enough exercise, and we should harness the power of the couple to ensure people are getting a healthy amount of physical activity.”
The researchers arrived at their conclusion by examining records from the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) Study. The study, which began in 1987, followed 15,792 middle-aged adults from communities in Maryland, North Carolina, Minnesota, and Mississippi. Researchers asked 3,261 couples about their exercise habits during medical appointments.
At minimum, according to the American Heart Association, adults should spend two and a half hours a week exercising at moderate intensity, or an hour and 15 minutes at vigorous intensity. Among the study participants, 45 percent of husbands and 33 percent of wives were already meeting these goals at their first visit.
Effects were not the same for husbands as they were for wives. The study showed that when a wife met recommended levels of exercise at the first visit, her husband was 70 percent more likely to report meeting those levels himself at future appointments. However, when a husband met recommended exercise levels at the first visit, his wife was 40 percent more likely to follow suit in future appointments..
“We all know how important exercise is to staying healthy,” Cobb says. “This study tells us that one spouse could have a really positive impact on the other when it comes to staying fit and healthy for the long haul.”
The research suggests that spouses should discuss supporting each other in exercise and that doctors should consider counseling couples together about exercise, instead of speaking to each person individually.
The study was presented in March at the American Heart Association’s EPI/Lifestyle 2015 Scientific Sessions in Baltimore.