Looking for a way to spice up your relationship? Forget sexy underwear, try putting on some Lycra.
An American psychology professor has found that couples who exercise together often find it easier to lose weight, and end up with a stronger relationship as a result.
Professor Thomas Bradbury, from UCLA in California, was in Wellington yesterday, presenting his findings at a symposium on the science of intimate relationships at Victoria University.
He has studied more than 2500 newlywed couples over the past 25 years to find out what makes people stick together and what leads to divorce and disillusion.
One of the things that jumped out at him during his research was how often people talked about wanting to improve their health and appearance, but did not get support from their partners.
"A typical conversation we hear all the time is the wife will say, ‘You know, honey, we've been married for six months now and I've noticed I'm putting on some weight, and I'd like to do something about that'.
"Then the husband will say something like, ‘Hey, that's a good idea. Let me know how that goes'.
"Sometimes he'll resist to the point where he sabotages her desire to be healthy."
Prof Bradbury said the focus of his work these days was getting people to think about health as a product of their relationship, rather than just an individual effort.
"If you have a doctor who says you need to go out and exercise, and you have a partner who says come sit here on the couch with me and watch television, then you're not going to be able to follow your doctor's advice very well." The main benefit of couples exercise was that it made the process easier, although it was often the case that their relationships emerged stronger, he said.
"We all fantasise about having personal trainers and life coaches, when in fact we may well be sleeping with that person right this very minute."
Wellington gym-goers Fernanda Rockert Gomes, 23, and Mario Coelho, 29, have been together since 2008, and married three years ago. They work out together about four times a week and often go on runs and bike rides together in their spare time.
Ms Gomes said it was their shared passion for fitness that brought them together, and that same passion had strengthened their relationship since.
"If you've got friends that are into exercise, it helps. But having someone that's closer makes a big difference because they're alongside you every day, sharing the same experience.
"We always push each other and help each other during our workouts. Sometimes when you're feeling a bit tired, you don't want to work out. It's those times when it helps if you've got a partner who also does it."
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