Partners move in synch

By June Shannon Heart News   |   14th Sep 2018

Romantic partners tend to mirror each other’s active and sitting times

Partners move in synch and tend to mirror each other’s active and sitting times, that is the suggestion from a new study that examined if and how romantic partners influenced each other’s physical activity and sedentary time.

The study was presented at a major international conference on health psychology which took place at NUI Galway last month and was carried out by Dr Jan Keller, Division of Health Psychology at the Freie Universität, Berlin in Germany in collaboration with Theresa Pauly, Health and Adult Development Lab at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver in Canada.

For the research Dr Keller, as part of a large study team, recruited 346 couples aged 18 to 80 and measured both their physical activity and sedentary behaviour using accelerometers (devices that measure movement).

If one partner is active then the other is also likely to be active. The same can be said for sedentary behaviour of both partners.

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The findings revealed that both activity and sedentary levels were positively linked between partners meaning, that within a romantic relationship, if one partner is active then the other is also likely to be active. The same can be said for sedentary behaviour of both partners.

The study also looked at specific times during the day when couples were both active and inactive, and the results showed that couples were more likely to show similar patterns of physical activity in the mornings and the evenings, rather than during the day.

Dr Keller explained that the study applied a new approach to analyse synchrony in couples and provided further evidence that health behaviours are linked within couples.

While the study did not examine whether if one member of a couple was more active they could positively influence their partner to become more active, Dr Keller said you could assume that if one partner went for a walk in the park for example, than the other partner was more likely to join them.

"In order to make activity part of our daily lives, it must be social and enjoyable,"

Enda Campbell, Workplace Relations Manager , Irish Heart Foundation

So, while the study suggests that an active partner may be good for your health, Dr Keller warned that the synchrony between couples can also work the other way.

“You have to be careful because synchrony can also be a bad thing because when one partner is sitting on a couch all the time then the other partner is likely to do that as well,” he told the Irish Heart Foundation.

Commenting Enda Campbell, Workplace Relations Manager with the Irish Heart Foundation said, “We know that our environment affects our activity patterns. Our partners and friends can influence our social norms of activity and provide support or encouragement to stay active. In order to make activity part of our daily lives, it must be social and enjoyable.”

The study ‘Synchrony of physical activity and sedentary behaviour in couples’ was presented at the 32nd Conference of the European Health Psychology Society (EHPS) which took place in NUI Galway from 21 to 25 August. The EHPS is the largest professional organisation of health psychologists in Europe with more than 600 members worldwide and 750 delegates attended the conference.

The theme of this year’s conference was ‘Health Psychology Across the Lifespan: Uniting Research, Practice and Policy’.

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