Experts often recommend you walk with an accountability partner to provide motivation and help each other stick to your goals. Depending on the dynamics of your relationship, walking with your significant other may or may not be an ideal partnership.
“Exercise can become embedded into your relationship, which would be highly advantageous for both,” says Dave Wolovsky, MS, a psychology coach based in New York City. “It adds another layer of ‘health’ to the relationship, strengthening it, so you get both physical and mental benefits.”
Before you lace up your shoes and bring your partner along, consider these pros and cons:
Some research shows couples who live together are likely to become more physically active if their significant others are physically active, too. Moreover, if one partner makes positive changes like incorporating a new walking routine, the other is significantly more likely to make similar positive changes.
In this way, two people who are dedicated to fitness may inspire each other to stay accountable by walking together daily, becoming positive influences on one another. “Similar to having a weightlifting partner who pushes you for that one extra rep in the gym, a walking partner can help you walk that extra mile or get out of bed when you want to skip a day,” says Franklin Antoian, an ACE-certified personal trainer based in Delray Beach, Florida.
If you and your partner allow yourselves to easily make excuses like, “I don’t feel like walking today” or “it’s too cold out,” you may not be as ideally matched for walking together as you might be with a friend whom you wouldn’t want to disappoint by canceling on a whim.
“It’s true that the closer you are with someone, the less you might feel obligated to keep an ‘appointment,’” Wolovsky says. “Your partner might also let you skip some days with no fuss.” Skipping a day here or there might not seem like a big deal, especially if your partner agrees, but over time it can prevent you from reaching your goals.
Walking together can become quality bonding time. Some research suggests couples who walk together may even be more likely to resolve conflicts while walking. While you might otherwise stare at the TV or become absorbed with your phone when you’re together at home, a daily walk provides a great time to communicate and catch up. “If you walk one hour per day five days per week, that’s five extra hours of alone-time for the two of you,” says Antoian.
Stephen Cooper, a personal trainer in Pasadena, California, agrees: “My wife and I walk our dog together almost every morning. It gives quality time to chat about life, goals, struggles, etc. With so much commotion the rest of our day, this is one of the few uninterrupted times we have.”
Some people enjoy walking alone so they can appreciate the seasonal changes in the neighborhood, listen to the sound of their own breathing or think about important decisions they need to make. Chatting with your partner may be distracting and make it harder to do these things.
“Exercising with the least distraction is the best for really strengthening your relationship with yourself,” says Wolovsky. “As a result, strengthening your relationship with yourself strengthens your other relationships, too.”
If you’re more introverted and recharge by being alone, you might feel walking together is too much “couple time,” adds Antonian.
Walking is a well-known mood booster and stress release, so you and your partner may become happier and less stressed together, which may help you see things — including your partner — in a more positive light. If the two of you get into better shape by walking, you might also become more physically attracted to your significant other. Similarly, if you share more meaningful conversations when walking, you may become more attracted to your partner’s mind. You may also view your partner as more attractive simply because he or she committed to a habit that’s important to you, especially if it’s outside their comfort zone.
“Seeing your significant other in new situations helps relationships grow,” says Wolovsky. “You notice different things about them, see their strengths used in different ways and see their faces and figures against different backgrounds. These elements all increase interest and attention paid to the partner, which strengthens the connection and can refresh feelings of attraction.”
Things may work out well when both people are eager to start a walking habit and have similar goals. But when one person feels forced to walk, or if one partner decides the couple needs to walk faster or farther than the other person is comfortable, the arrangement may become problematic.
“If there is a big gap in motivation between partners, this will cause conflict,” says Wolovsky. “Exercise will feel even more polarizing than it really is, and it will bring up deeper issues about how one partner tries to influence or control the other.”
THE BOTTOM LINE
Walking — whether alone or with your significant other — is a great way to improve overall health. Before walking with your partner, check in to see if your goals are aligned, says Wolovsky. “Having an honest conversation so you’re on the same page can help you get the most out of walking together.”