Your spouse and your health

03.12.15 |

Improve your spouse's fitness

The Habits of Health are ever-evolving as we learn more about the nuances of health & wellness, but the foundations are only getting stronger. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health found that when an individual improves his or her fitness, their spouse’s fitness is likely to improve as well.

The science here is not complex. As humans, we are prone to mimicry and we are programmed to find replicable routines. Regular readers will be more than familiar with the power of habit, but it bears repeating: we are hardwired to find reward loops to automate as much of our lives as possible. When survival was a daily battle, this allowed us to dedicate more brain power to monitoring our surroundings and less time having to think through walking the same trail we walked thousands of times before.

We also learned that our chances of survival were best when we worked together, so we naturally formed communities and developed the propensity to start adopting the habits of the people around us. After all, if their habits helped them to survive, they were probably worth incorporating into our own lives as well.

This is why you might start talking like someone that you spend a lot of time with. This is why you might start to pick up mannerisms and body language.

The researchers from Johns Hopkins are continuing down this path, demonstrating just how far it can go, but the lesson is the same: the people around you have an influence on you. Whether that influence is conscious or unconscious, it matters.

Your health bubble

In the past, I have described this as a health bubble. You, as an individual, are completely responsible for your own choices, but making the healthy choice is far easier if the people around you are doing the same. Surrounding yourself with people working toward similar goals takes your Stone Age programming and leverages it in your favor. You build each other up, and you help to move each other forward.

Building your health bubble from your family outward can have a profound impact on you and the people that you love, but getting that bubble started can be challenged.

Tips to get you started

Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Find each other’s unique motivations. Your interest in health may not be driven by the same goal as your spouse’s, and that’s okay. Perhaps you want to be more active, and he or she wants to look better in a suit. Talking about your goals ahead of time can make it easier to coach and support each other down the road.
  • Take small steps. Tackle your changing routine one piece at a time. Trying to upend your entire life in one day leads to yo-yo-ing. If you can agree to each start taking the stairs and going for a walk after work together, you are making valuable progress that you can build upon.
  • Be forgiving and supportive. Everyone makes mistakes on the road to Optimal Health. Try to avoid shaming each other and to instead focus on learning from the misstep to prevent it from happening in the future. Identify the source of the problem and discuss strategies for overcoming it.
  • Hold each other accountable. You can still be supportive while also keeping each other accountable. Checking in with each other throughout the day with an encouraging word is a good place to start, and scheduling time to exercise together can keep you on track even on the days that you feel like quitting.
  • Find a larger community to join. As you build your health bubble at home, look for opportunities to expand it beyond your family to a larger support network. Working with a health coach can help you do this. You could also join a pick-up basketball league or a yoga class to surround yourself with other people passionate about health.

If you take the time to build your health bubble, you can discover a new shared passion with the people you care about, and you can set yourself with a support network geared toward success.