What's Love Got to Do With It? How Romance and Relationships Keep You Healthy
If You're...So Happy Together
1. Get a bicycle built for two. Research shows that partners who exercise together continue to stay fit. "Routine and mutual encouragement are reinforcing," says Peeke. Sign up for a yoga or kickboxing class, take up tennis or squash so you can play against each other. Or invite him to join you in LLuminari's yearlong fitness plan with the goal of walking 10,000 steps a day (about four and a half miles) six days a week, along with doing a few at-home strength-building moves. This month try increasing your daily steps by another 500 each week.
2. Eat one scoop of ice cream to his four. For the average American woman, marriage comes with a mean gain of 19 pounds, according to a recent ten-year analysis of more than 9,000 adults. "When you get married, you have to reframe how you think about your weight, from wanting to be thin to attract a guy to having good health habits so you're happy with yourself," says Alice Domar, PhD, director of the Mind/Body Center for Women's Health at Boston IVF. One partner's habits can't help affecting the other's. So introduce healthier foods—bring home chocolate sorbet instead of ice cream; if he gets French fries, ask him to eat them out of your sight, or just have a couple even if he encourages you to take more. "When he says he loves you no matter what size you are," adds Domar, "don't listen. Your health is more important than your size."
3. Use love as a motivator. "Anytime our endorphins get going, which they do in a good relationship, we have extra energy," says Mitzi Krockover, MD, founding Medical Director of the Iris Cantor-UCLA Women's Health Center and a new LLuminari member. Exploit romantic exhilaration by kicking up your exercise program. Now's the time to add weight training or extra cardio.
4. Share the load. A Swedish study of Volvo workers found that a man's stress-hormone level and blood pressure drop when he crosses the threshold of his home, while a woman's increase. So negotiate an equitable system for divvying up chores and responsibilities. For example, ask him to alternate cooking weeks with you or suggest that he do laundry in exchange for your expertise with a vacuum. Trust him to pick out a gift for your niece's graduation when you're pressed for time. Don't brood alone—include him in your concerns about your dad's illness or your boss's demands. "If there's someone to share a problem with, life doesn't feel so hopeless, and psychological and physical survival are improved," says Legato.
5. Get some air. Yes, intimacy is good for the immune system, but time alone is healthy for your mind and spirit. "Find things you can do and excel at on your own," says Legato. Weren't you once the ice-skating queen, the poetry genius, the community firebrand? Don't let that person disappear in the all-consuming rush of your relationship.
Next: If you're desperately seeking someone