If you want your healthy New Year’s resolutions to stick, get your partner to kickstart their health, too. According to a new study, men and women are more likely to make a healthy change if their partner also does it.
Researchers looked at data from 3,722 couples who were either married or living together and who were part of the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing. They found that when one partner made a healthy change—quit smoking, lost weight or exercised more, for example—their partner was more likely to make the same change.
Interestingly, when one partner was initially unhealthy but then became healthier, they had a strong influence on their less healthy partner. The researchers found that smokers or sedentary people whose partners got healthier were more likely to quit their bad habits. Overweight people were less likely to lose weight if their partner was a normal weight—unless their partner had once been overweight, too, and had worked to shed pounds while they were together. Having that history together was linked to a three times greater likelihood that the other partner would lose weight, too.
The researchers say the reason one healthy partner often influences their less healthy half is that the pair might make decisions to get healthy together. If partners are equally ready to make a change, prior data shows they are more likely to be successful than if one partner was more motivated. They may also be inspired by each other’s success and feel more inclined to reach a health goal that someone close to them already has.
The findings can be useful for public health interventions, researchers say. Losing weight with a coach or buddy can keep dieters on track, but the same strategy could be used to enhance other health-related programs, too.