A 5K race, a Bikram yoga class or a workout at the gym may not seem like a romantic outing, but a growing group of experts agree that couples who exercise together can not only stave off the extra pounds that are often linked to marriage, but they can strengthen their relationship and their sex life, and possibly live happily ever after.“When a couple works out together, the actual exercise itself can physically and emotionally have a positive impact,” explained Dr. Jane Greer, a marriage and relationship psychotherapist in New York City and author of What About Me? Stop Selfishness From Ruining Your Relationship. “Both partners come away with feelings of synchronicity, cooperative spirit and shared passion. Then you throw in some spicy endorphins and it can be a real power trip for the relationship.”Greer says sweating it out together is a good way to reduce stress in a relationship while also building better communication and common goals. It’s also a great way to enhance what goes on in the bedroom.MORE: Sex Does a Body Good“This will definitely impact your sex life because exercising helps people feel better,” she said. “It alleviates stress and gives you more energy; you feel better about yourself and your self-esteem increases. If you’re feeling all of that when you’re with your partner, the logical thing is to share that desirability and sexual companionship.”And research backs that up.One study by the University of Arkansas found that exercise improves sex. Exercise frequency was attributed to enhanced feelings of attractiveness and increased energy levels—both of which can increase sexual desirability and performance.Another study reported that women were more sexually responsive following 20 minutes of vigorous exercise (think: hot, sweaty yoga class with hip-opening poses). Men also reap similar sexual rewards. Short intense exercise is linked with increased testosterone levels, which help stimulate sexual desire and behavior.And this increased friskiness doesn’t just apply to young couples either. In a Harvard University study of 160 male and female swimmers in their 40s and 60s, regular physical activity was associated with more frequency and enjoyment of sex. Interestingly enough, swimmers in their 60s actually reported sex lives comparable to those in their 40s.As if a better sex life isn’t enough of a reason to hit the gym together, couples who do so are more motivated and more committed to staying fit and healthy.MORE: The Link Between Marriage and WeightA study in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness found that couples who exercise together are more likely to stick with an exercise program. After 12 months, only 6.3 percent of married couples dropped out of their workout routine, while a whopping 43 percent of married singles did. Who says marriage means you’re doomed to become a couch potato?The other bonus for couples who exercise together? It can be a good way to work through any conflicts, says Greer. “When you come away from a class with a renewed sense of strength and control, and you see your partner doing the same thing, it’s easier to look at a problem and say, let’s work this through.”Ready to get your sweat on with your sweetie? Here are five tips for doing so:
- Pick a race. Whether it’s a 5K or a marathon, training towards something together can be especially bonding. Even if you aren’t the same speed and running side-by-side the whole time, encouraging each other and sharing workouts can be a great way to stay close. For even more perks, pick a race in a fun destination that you can travel to together. Explore a new city, push your bodies for a healthy accomplishment and make a vacation out of it!
- Don’t compete. Not many couples can—or should—compare and compete. “There are times when people exercise together and one person in the relationship exercises more frequently,” warns Greer. “This can create friction if he thinks his partner doesn’t exercise enough or she thinks he exercises too much. But as long as the emphasis is on health and not competition, it’s OK.” Just pick something where you don’t need to compete, like spin class, yoga or hiking.
- Think outside the box. Working out together doesn’t always have to entail a formal exercise class. “Rather than getting caught up in a gym class or yoga class, think in terms of what else you like to do,” advises Greer. “Dance, ride bikes together and move your body in ways that you can do it together.”
- Respect likes and dislikes. You and your partner can go to the gym together, and each do your own workout. For example, one of you might like the treadmill while the other wants to lift weights. It’s all about honoring each other’s personal likes and dislikes, instead of trying to force yourselves to do everything together.
- Go for a walk together. Exercising as a couple doesn’t have to be complicated. Sometimes it’s as simple as going for a walk. “Use this as your private time with each other,” says Greer. “Afterward, sit down and have cup of coffee together.” That’s a wonderful way to bond.
The bottom line? Exercise together for healthier bodies and a healthier relationship!MORE: Exercise Your Way to Freedom After a Breakup