When you improve your health by exercising, losing weight or quitting smoking, the chances increase dramatically that your partner will, too.
A recent study published in JAMA Internal Medicine1, which included information from over 3,000 people, showed that, although maintaining a healthy lifestyle has a positive effect on a spouse or partner, a new, positive change in health behavior has a much greater effect.
Couples tend to share the same habits and patterns when it comes to physical activity, eating and smoking. Part of this is due to the fact that people generally enter into relationships with people who have similar lifestyles. What the JAMA study shows is that when new, positive behaviors are introduced by one half of a couple, there is very good chance the other half will mirror the behavior.
When it came to exercise, 66% of women and 67% of men increased their level of physical activity when their partners did, compared to just 24% of women and 26% of men whose partners remained inactive. When their partners lost weight, 36% of women and 26% of men lost along with them, compared to only 15% of women and 10% of men whose partners didn’t. When their partners stopped smoking, 50% of the women and 48% of the men stopped smoking also, compared to only 8% who stopped while their partners continued to smoke.
The three behaviors examined in the study are some of the most important health-related issues people face, and some of the most challenging to change. One thing this study makes clear is that the support, and the positive example, of someone close to us can make a big difference.
1 Jackson SE, Steptoe A, Wardle J. The Influence of Partner’s Behavior on Health Behavior Change: The English Longitudinal Study of Ageing. JAMA Intern Med. Published online January 19, 2015. doi:10.1001/ jamainternmed.2014.7554.