The pros and cons of working out with your partner
with advice from Randy Gustafson, PT, MPT, MOMT, OCS
There are many benefits to working out with another person: Motivation. Accountability. Group support. Combining exercise with a social activity. But should you work out with your significant other?
Sharing a common activity with your partner has been shown to lead to better relationships. This doesn’t have to be a physical activity, but playing sports together, or taking a dance class together, can improve your relationship. And if you’re learning together, it can help increase your confidence in both the activity and your relationship.
Randy Gustafson, a physical therapist and the owner and clinical director of Mesa Physical Therapy (a Physiquality member in San Diego, California), points out that working out with a partner can keep you accountable and improve results for both people. (And sometimes that partner isn’t even human — research has shown that people with dogs and those that use virtual partners are often more active than those who work out solo.) But research shows this correlation is strengthened within a relationship: A 2013 study found that “when partners care about fitness — their own and their partner’s — it becomes easier to achieve fitness goals. … Average-weight husbands who care about fitness engage in more physical activity when their wives offer more supportive health-related comments.”
If you’re working out at the gym, working out with your partner can help to make your time there more effective, for a couple of reasons. Having someone to spot you on the weights and to watch your form can ensure that your technique is correct. And trainers — and our own experts — will tell you that rest is essential to building muscle, even during your workout. Taking turns on equipment or with free weights will build periods of rest into your regimen, improving your pace and making your workout more efficient.
Randy notes that when you exercise, you release endorphins, which makes you happier and can improve your relationships and mood. And Psychology Today adds that exercise induces the symptoms of physiological arousal — sweaty hands, a racing pulse, shortness of breath. These symptoms mirror, in many ways, the thrill of romantic attraction, and might lead to more private activities when you get home from the gym.
Not all couples are compatible for couples workouts. If your fitness personalities clash — one into intense, sweat-dripping workouts, while the other prefers low-impact yoga or Pilates — it will be difficult to find activities that please both people. And if an agreement to work out isn’t working out, it can lead to nagging or more negative encounters than positive feedback.
The number one danger? Competition. If one of the people is highly driven to succeed on the court or in the gym, it could easily lead to pulled muscles and sore feelings. It’s probably better for those individuals to go their separate ways, in the fitness realm, at least. Maybe it’s better to join a fitness program, like the exercise and nutrition program offered at Mesa Physical Therapy. Or perhaps it’s time to get a dog.
||Randy Gustafson, PT, MPT, MOMT, OCS, is the owner and clinical director of Mesa Physical Therapy, a Physiquality member in San Diego, California. Since first opening its doors in 1989, Mesa Physical Therapy has been an innovator when it comes to offering specialized preventive and rehabilitative programs that help patients regain their health and function.
For further reading, look through our selection of articles on fitness, in addition to the below links:
Feifer, Jason. Why working out with your girlfriend helps you build muscle faster. Men’s Health, April 2, 2015.
DiDonato, Theresa. Five reasons why couples who sweat together, stay together. Psychology Today, January 10, 2014.
Need workout motivation? Try a virtual partner. NBC News, May 25, 2012.
Southerland, Jenna Bergen. Eight reasons couples shouldn’t work out together. Prevention, March 5, 2012.
Internicola, Dorene. Looking for a fitness buddy? Get a dog. Reuters, September 26, 2011.
Jayson, Sharon. Married couples who play together stay together. USA Today, July 16, 2008.