We all know that eating a healthy diet, exercising, and managing stress is important for our own bodies and minds.
But did you know that many of the habits that improve individual health can boost the health of your relationship as well? Add these 10 activities to your to-do list, and you and your significant other will reap the benefits together.
1. Get Your Sweat On — Together
A recent survey conducted by Vouchercloud revealed that 85 percent of couples who exercise together believe that their relationship has improved from spending quality time in the gym with their partner, with one in five couples going as far as to say that training together “saved the relationship altogether.”
The top reasons respondents gave for exercise resulting in a relationship boost? Spending more time together, feeling united by a similar interest, both feeling healthier and happier, and exercise boosting their sex drives.
An added bonus: You’re more likely to stick to your routine when you join a fitness program with your spouse.
2. And Work Out Regularly, Too
How often you hit the gym can give your relationship a lift as well.
Research shows that women who exercise on a regular basis not only have more active sex lives, but reach orgasm more quickly and easily than sedentary women.
In the same vein, men who exercise on a regular basis are less likely to experience erectile dysfunction.
Another study found that frequent exercise was attributed to enhanced feelings of attractiveness and increased energy levels — both of which can increase sexual desirability and performance in the bedroom.
How’s that for a relationship boost?
3. Eat a Mediterranean Diet
This popular diet has been lauded for improving heart health, boosting brain power, and lowering the risk of cancer — and it can also help enhance your sex life and overall happiness.
Not only can a diet high in protein and low in carbohydrates improve testosterone and desire, but the Mediterranean diet in particular has been shown to help alleviate erectile dysfunction in men.
Plus, the diet stresses the importance of foods high in omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon, flaxseed, and walnuts, which research suggests can help fight depression and lighten mood — both important factors for a happy relationship.
How does that translate to your grocery list? Stock up on fruits and veggies, whole grains, beans and legumes, nuts and seeds, olive oil, and seafood.
4. Log 7 to 8 Hours of Sleep
A study of 29 couples revealed that a “bidirectional association exists between couples’ sleep quality and the quality of their relationship.”
When men get better sleep, they are more likely to feel positive about their relationship the next day, and for women, problems in the relationship were strongly associated with poor sleep for both themselves and their partner.
Other research has also supported this two-way connection between lack of sleep and relationship problems, linking relationship conflict with poorer sleep and showing lack of sleep (which impairs emotion regulation and cognitive function) to negatively affect relationships.
5. Cook at Home
Home-cooked meals are healthier and lower in calories than those eaten out, and working together to plan and prepare a meal can be healthy for your relationship, too.
Studies show that couples who are intensely in love report participating in engaging and challenging activities together, such as getting the recipe for a favorite dish and recreating it at home.
So plan a monthly date night in, find a recipe you’ll both enjoy, and hit the kitchen!
When you’re selecting a movie for date night, make it a comedy.
A good laugh-fest increases endorphins (the “feel-good chemical”), decreases stress, helps reduce pain, boosts immunity, and lowers blood pressure.
There’s no question a joke or two is good for our health, and research shows that our relationship benefits as well.
One study of couples who had been married for at least 45 years revealed a sense of humor to be one of the top three stated reasons for the success of the relationship.
Simply recalling a time they had laughed together enhanced relationship satisfaction among couples — so go ahead and crack up!
7. Give HIIT a Try
Opting for short bursts of high-intensity exercise over logging hours at the gym has become a popular fitness trend shown to boost heart health, aid in weight loss, and increase metabolism — and the benefits don’t stop at the bedroom door.
Studies show that women were more sexually responsive following 20 minutes of vigorous exercise. The same goes for males who showed an increase in testosterone levels — which stimulates sexual interest — following short, intense exercise.
8. Eat a Healthy Snack
Having nutritious bites on hand is crucial for keeping blood sugar levels stable between meals.
While we all know that low blood sugar can zap energy and impede weight loss, an empty stomach can also have a negative effect on your relationship.
Researchers asked couples to complete a series of tasks in which they looked at responses in correlation with blood glucose levels.
The results? Those with low blood sugar levels always responded more aggressively to proposed situations than those with stable levels.
“Without adequate fuel in the form of glucose, the part of the brain responsible for curtailing angry impulses — the prefrontal cortex — simply doesn’t have enough resources to exert self-control,” says Brad Bushman, a member of the research team conducting the study.
If you need to discuss something important with your significant other, never do it on an empty stomach, he advises; enjoy a healthy snack like a handful of almonds, apple slices and peanut butter, or veggies and hummus first.
9. Take Time to De-Stress
Chronic stress has been shown to have major impacts on our health, from raising blood pressure to causing weight gain.
And even acute stress — a fight with your friend, the tough deadlines at work, or delays during your commute — can affect your relationship, too, altering behavior and lowering satisfaction levels.
Make a habit of scheduling “you” time into your week — taking a bath, getting a massage, or reading a good book are all great ways to calm your nerves and ease stress.
10. Ditch the Cigarettes
It’s no secret that smoking is an unhealthy habit, linked to heart disease, cancer, and a slew of other lesser-known dangers. And not only does kicking the habit lower your risk for all of these physical health issues, but it boosts your mental health as well.
Research reveals that those who successfully quit reduced depression, anxiety, and stress, plus had a more positive outlook on life when compared to those who continued smoking — showing positive effects equal to or greater than anti-depressant treatments.
There’s no doubt that a better mood and general outlook on life translates to a happier relationship — yet another reason to kick that bad habit to the curb.