When discussing what makes their relationship so successful, both Jennifer Lopez and Alex Rodriguez (who celebrated their one-year anniversary last weekend), emphasized the importance of having things in common. One of those things is definitely their commitment to staying in shape, and the two frequently post videos of their grueling couples’ workouts. Now, new research indicates that, when it comes to keeping fit, your partner’s choices truly do affect you.
A new study published in Obesity found that when someone in a relationship truly commits to losing weight, their partner tends to lose weight as well, even if they don’t actively decide to do so.
Researchers tracked the progress of 130 couples over the course of six months. One half of the couple was enrolled into a six-month Weight Watchers program, while the other half was simply given a four-page-handout on healthy living and exercise tips. The study found that approximately 1/3 of people lost 3% or more of their body weight when their partners began the weight-loss program, despite not participating in it themselves.
Amy Gorin, the associate director of the Institute for Collaboration on Health, Intervention, and Policy at the University of Connecticut, and lead author of the study, calls this phenomenon, “the ripple effect,” and says it’s not just limited to your romantic partner.
“When one person changes their behavior, the people around them change,” Gorin wrote in the university newsletter. “Whether the patient works with their healthcare provider, joins a community-based, lifestyle approach like Weight Watchers, or tries to lose weight on their own, their new healthy behaviors can benefit others in their lives.”
While an individual’s wellness choices can have an impact on everyone in his or her inner circle, the effects are particularly strong when it comes to cohabitating couples, most likely because they spend the most time together.
Of course, if your partner’s decision to eat healthy and hit the gym more can affect you in a positive way, the opposite is also true. Indeed, the study found that couples tend to lose and gain weight at around the same rate.
While previous studies have already drawn the conclusion that your partner’s dietary and fitness choices can significantly impact your own, those were often based on self-reported updates, which can sometimes be not altogether accurate. The University of Connecticut study was the first controlled design in which the participants’ were examined at the beginning of the program, three months in, and at the six-month endpoint.
The study is particularly interesting in light of the increasing body of research that shows that peer support, whether in the form of spousal support or social media hashtags, play a significant role in weight loss. For more on the latter, read Why Instagram Is Your Secret Weapon for Weight Loss.
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