Couples who stay fit together stay together, here's why
There are two types of couples in this world. The first, we’ll call “The Netflix and Fester” - typically found curled up on the sofa under a blanket made of crumbs, they’re as committed to their 19-hour binge-watch as they are to each other. Sure, they probably do the “chill” bit sometimes too, but only once they’ve finished all 18 seasons of that romantic serial killer docu-series. The other, we’ll call “The Smug and Sporty” - they’re the annoyingly active ones that do a triathlon or a skydive every weekend for “fun” and then spend the rest of the week humblebragging about their adventures, even though you know what they really want is a nap and a pizza.
Of course, both will tell you that they’re the definition of #relationshipgoals, but who is really right? Is there actually a winning formula when it comes to making relationships last, or is it just about finding the right person and doing whatever makes you happy? We decided to do a little bit of digging - and sorry Festerers, but you might not like the answer.
With the Winter Olympics in full swing, the idea that exercise can make you fall more in love has been attracting quite a lot of attention, with a number of couples competing at the event, including the USA’s ice-dancing duo Alex and Chris Knierim. And then there are Canadian ice dancers Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, who have so much sexual tension between them that the good people of the internet categorically refuse to believe that they’re not a couple.
But these are sports stars that spend all day practising, right? So, does getting sweaty work as an aphrodisiac for us normal people too? According to science, the answer is yes. A study by researchers from Monmouth University and the State University of New York at Stony Brook, which partnered sets of strangers together in either novelty or high stimulation - or as they put it, arousal - exercises found that: “Those participating in highly arousing activities showed significantly greater romantic attraction to their partners than did those participating in less arousing activities.” Basically, the more you sweat, the more you want to f**k.
And it turns out that once the lustful honeymoon phase is over (sob), exercise can help you stay in love too - well, kind of. An earlier study showed that the physical side effects of intense physical activities such as exercise - increased heartbeat, feeling warm, sweaty palms (ew) - actually mimicked many of the physical experiences of romantic attraction. As a result, the brain can easily misattribute these sweaty symptoms to be romantic feelings, making you feel more in love and sexually attracted to the person you're completing it with. So next time you’re feeling quietly disillusioned about the dad-bod your partner has been cultivating, challenge him to a game of racquetball and get a sweat on together - he gets a workout, and you get to fancy him more. It’s a win-win, really.
All of this comes as no surprise to Simon Heap, a former technology consultant to the GB Olympic cycle team and founder of Rugged Interactive, a motivational fitness equipment company that has appeared on Dragons Den. He told Four Nine: “It makes sense that couples that exercise together are likely to have stronger feeling towards each other considering the mix of teamwork, rivalry and endorphins. It's even more the case if it's something that's enjoyable to start with." And to be fair, if ever there's proof that exercise leads to endearment then the GB cycle team is it - six times gold medal winner Jason Kenny and the most successful British female Olympian ever Laura Trott fell in love while in training.
So, is there any saving grace for the Netflix and Fester couples out there? Well, kind of - but it still depends on what your lifestyle is like. A recently-published study into the benefits of shared media use in relationships asked couples to detail the way they consumed media, what their social groups looked like, and their satisfaction in their romantic relationship. Scientists found that binge-watching TV can be a powerful bonding mechanism when couples didn’t share friends or social groups, allowing them to: “compensate for lacking a shared social network in the real-world”. However, if you already have lots of mutual friends who you can hang out with, then your six-hour Black Mirror marathon is likely to have less of a positive impact on your relationship. Sorry!
Like it or not, it seems that Smug and Sporty have won this round. Not only is exercise good for the boring stuff like our blood pressure, it's actually pretty awesome for the fun stuff too, allowing you to fancy your partner more and re-invigorate your feelings when it all gets a bit old and boring. So next time you're debating a trip to the gym or just "one more episode" of Mindhunter, just think about how much better you'll both feel for making the effort. But that's not to say that once in a while you can't treat yourselves to a duvet day and a tub of Ben & Jerry's. Life is about balance, don't they say?