If you're looking to make a positive health change, consider enlisting the help of a partner. Research published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that couples who work together to form healthy habits are more likely to be successful. People had greater success in beginning an exercise program, losing weight, and quitting smoking when their partners made the same change at the same time.
Researchers analyzed data from 3,722 married or cohabitating couples, age 50 and older. They found that when one partner became physically active but the other remained inactive, the newly active partner was successful in sustaining the change approximately 25 percent of the time. However, when both partners became physically active at the same time, the success rate jumped to 66 percent.
Having a partner who already exercised also improved the success rate, but not as profoundly as having a partner who undertook the change at the same time.
"Getting some support can help people take up good habits," said Dr. Julie Sharp, head of health information for Cancer Research UK, one of the study's funders. "For example, if you want to lose weight and have a friend or colleague who's trying to do the same thing you could encourage each other by joining up for a run or a swim at lunchtime or after work."
The research team also looked at study participants who lost at least 5 percent of their body weight and found they were more likely to be successful if their partner also lost weight. Thirty-six percent of women who lost weight at the same time as a partner were successful, versus 15 percent of those who made the change on their own. For men, 26 percent were successful when their partner also lost weight, versus 10 percent when they operated solo.
While having an already-healthy partner had a positive impact on success rates when it came to beginning an exercise program and quitting smoking, it had no effect on weight loss success.
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