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Why To Exercise Today: It Could Help Your Partner Exercise, Too

Even if you've never heard of Nicholas Christakis and his splashy research on how our social networks affect our health, it's simple common sense: We're influenced by the people around us, and we influence them back.

Now, a new study presented at a medical conference even quantifies that influence a bit, among spouses. It found that over several years, physically active wives led to fitter husbands, and — to a somewhat lesser extent — active husbands led to fitter wives. From the press release:

The researchers examined records from the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) Study, which in 1987 began following a group of 15,792 middle-aged adults from communities in Maryland, North Carolina, Minnesota and Mississippi. [Laura Cobb, a Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health doctoral student and co-author of the research] and her colleagues analyzed data from two medical visits conducted roughly six years apart, beginning between 1987 and 1989. At each visit, the researchers asked 3,261 spouse pairs about their physical activity levels.

The American Heart Association recommends that adults should exercise at a moderate intensity for a minimum of 150 minutes per week or at a vigorous intensity for at least 75 minutes per week. Forty-five percent of husbands and 33 percent of wives in the study group met these recommendations at the first visit.

They found that when a wife met recommended levels of exercise at the first visit, her husband was 70 percent more likely to meet those levels at subsequent visits than those whose wives were less physically active. When a husband met recommended exercise levels, his wife was 40 percent more likely to meet the levels at follow-up visits.

Bottom line: "Your exercise regimen isn't just good for you; it may also be good for your spouse." The study was presented earlier this month at the American Heart Association's EPI/Lifestyle 2015 Scientific Sessions in Baltimore.

Carey Goldberg Twitter Editor, CommonHealth
Carey Goldberg is the editor of WBUR's CommonHealth blog.

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