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Sexercise! How Fitness Can Enhance Your Romance

Stacy Boyd
April 04, 2000

In today's high-speed society leisure time is extremely valuable. It's a challenge to fit healthy eating, a fitness regimen, personal obligations, career responsibilities, your children's appointments, and time for relaxation into a twenty-four hour period.

      So where do romantic relationships fit in? As everyone married or dating knows, long-term relationships need constant attention. After work, between social obligations, when the kids are asleep: when can couples spend time together?

      Exercise may be the answer.

      Sharing an interest in physical fitness can improve or increase the quality time you spend with your significant other. And in addition to providing all the proven benefits of regular exercise, working out as a couple can increase motivation, add spice to a routine exercise schedule, and create intimacy. Watching your partner's skin glisten with sweat as he or she pumps out those last few reps isn't exactly a turn-off.

      Long-term relationships benefit from the by-products of regular exercise, of course, but including your partner in the actual fitness experience can produce more extensive results.

      Intimate Exercise

      According to research done by the American Psychological Association, intimacy is one of the most essential ingredients for a long, happy marriage. Building togetherness based on mutual identification and shared intimacy, while setting boundaries that protect each partner's autonomy, is a pillar of the marital relationship, says Judith S. Wallerstein, Ph.D., co-author of the book The Good Marriage: How and Why Love Lasts (Warner Books, 1996). A mutual fitness program would provide the time and common interests needed to encourage intimacy.

      Relationships are also stronger when both partners have reduced stress levels and good mental health. Research shows that regular exercise can provide both. Some of the most significant benefits include:

      Decreased stress hormones, such as cortisol. Exercise lowers the presence of these hormones, which, over time, can cause extensive damage within the body.

      Improved mood and an increased sense of well being. Dr. Tony Johnson, a licensed psychologist and professor of psychology at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Georgia, says that psychological studies have shown exercise to be a short and long-term mood enhancer.

      People who exercise regularly report feeling well for several hours after a workout. Dr. Johnson contrasts the outcome of exercise with the temporary pleasant feelings achieved when consuming caffeine or sugar. After eating chocolate, for example, study subjects often report feeling tired and listless.

      Increased energy levels, due to the improvement of the cardiovascular system. Regular exercise improves blood flow, heart performance, and the efficient use of oxygen in the body. All of these effects lead to more energy after a workout and throughout the day. "Even low-stress exercise, such as walking for fifteen minutes, can have general energy-boosting and anti-depressant effects," says Dr. Johnson.

      Exercising Together: Where and How

      Statistics show that people who work out with a partner get better results, says Catherine Carrigan, A.C.E. certified fitness trainer and author of Healing Depression: A Guide to Making Intelligent Choices About Treating Depression (Heartsfire Books, 1997).

      "Men and women have different fitness goals, and workouts should be adapted to each person's fitness needs," warns Carrigan. As with other aspects of long-term relationships, compromise is the key to integrating fitness routines.

      Here are some of Carrigan's suggestions for coordinating couple workouts in the home gym or at the local fitness center:



This news story is not produced by the American Psychological Association and does not necessarily represent the opinions of the association.