Valentine’s Day brings to mind boxes of chocolates, lying by the fire, and intimate dinners for two. Sounds great, but that can add up to a rough experience from a health and wellness perspective. So why not focus this Valentine’s Day on moving more together? Long walks on the beach are romantic, but there are plenty of other activities that you can do together and research suggests that couples who move together are more likely to achieve their goals. That’s a recipe for a happy and healthy relationship.
Just look at two-time Hawaii Ironman World Champion Tim DeBoom and his wife, Nicole. The couple have been married for 21 years and actually run a Date Night group class at a gym in Boulder, CO. “The times that we have struggled most have corresponded to lifestyle changes when we stopped working out together as frequently,” Nicole says.
When one person in a couple starts adding healthy habits, like exercise, a study showed that his or her significant other was more likely to also adopt that healthy habit. Studies show that married people exercise less, so if you think your partner could use a bit more exercise, it might be time to get moving yourself.
A new activity can add even more stimulation to your relationship: One study showed that couples taking part in “exciting” or “novel” activities together improved the quality of their relationship overall. So maybe it is time to take that aerial silks class together!
“Working out with your beau is the best kind of multitasking: It's a great way to sneak a date night into your beautifully full life without having to sacrifice your physical health or stress release, both of which are important factors for an intimate, exciting, and fulfilling relationship,” says Kait Scalisi, an intimacy educator. “Plus, as each other's biggest cheerleaders, you can push each other to go further and reach new goals.”
This Valentine’s Day, why not consider one of these fun — and exercise-based — activities instead of going out to the same old restaurant? Then start to work these activities into your routine all year long. Chances are, you’ll be happier and healthier for it.
Rent a Tandem Bike
Why do it: A bicycle built for two is a romantic cliché for a reason. “Tandem biking helps to develop trust, and you are accomplishing a great task together,” says Samantha Clayton, former Olympic runner, personal trainer, and senior director of Worldwide Fitness and Education at Herbalife Nutrition. Cycling may burn up to 700 calories per hour, so be sure to follow it up with dinner reservations.
How to thrive: “I only recommend this for couples with great patience, as it can also cause fights,” Clayton notes. Ask your instructor for a few tips before you pedal away. He or she can offer some helpful advice on how to pedal as a single unit, and avoid the tension that can happen when one of you is pedaling out of sync. It can take a few tries to find a smooth stroke — expect some wobbling!
Try Couples Yoga
Why do it: If you’re a yoga fan but your partner has never tried it, a standard class can be boring. But a couple’s yoga class will give you a new challenge, and make it less intimidating for your partner, since you’re both trying something new. “There are a lot of partner exercises that you can execute together, and adding the occasional challenge makes it more interesting,” says Tanya Otterstein-Liehs, a personal trainer and life coach.
How to thrive: Don’t worry if you end up laughing, or start to feel a little silly. “Yoga is a great way for couples to spend quiet, intimate time and is great for overall stress relief,” says Clayton. But that’s only true if you aren’t getting stressed about perfecting each posture. You’re not going to become professional yogis, you’re just trying to get a little sweaty, a little more flexible, and a little more in tune with each other.
Find a Crazy Outdoor Adventure
Why do it: “If you join a group outdoor activity, like with Discover Outdoors or Sourced Adventures, you have a chance to meet other like-minded folks who appreciate having active adventures as well,” says Judith Meer, a physical therapist and a senior guide for Discover Outdoors. “This can be a less intimidating place to start if you're a couple new to hiking, camping, snowshoeing, kayaking, rock-climbing, or any number of outdoor activities; or if you're a couple that is hesitant about doing something new for the first time on your own; or if you don't have transportation because you live in a city without a car.”
How to thrive: Make friends with the other people on your group adventure, but don't forget that you’re on a date with your partner. Spend most of your time chatting with him or her, rather than trying to perfect your zip-lining form or be the funny guy in the group. If you end up loving the activity, you can always go again another time.
Why do it: It’s the most traditional “date night” activity on this list — and you can choose to take a class or head to a club, whichever makes your heart beat faster. “Formal dancing or salsa classes are so great, as they’re social in nature and require communication, trust and teamwork,” says Clayton. Salsa dancing may also burn around 400 calories per hour, though it depends on how fast you’re dancing and if you’re constantly stopping during a class to go over new steps.
How to thrive: Embrace the process, and don’t stress if you’re stepping on each other’s toes. And if you catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror doing the same moves you remember from your childhood watching your dad get jiggy with it, just go with it.
Hit a Group Class
Why do it: Nicole and Tim DeBoom teach a Friday night class at the RallySport Gym in Colorado that’s just for couples. “We host an ongoing workout class called DeBoom Date Night because we believe that couples who work out together form stronger relationships and gain intimacy in an important way that is physical, but not sexual,” Nicole DeBoom says. “It's about increasing respect and supporting each other. Plus, it's a great way to spend a Friday night when you have kids and don't want to break the bank on sitters, movies and dinner, since child care, dinner and drinks are all included.”
Date night fitness isn’t limited to Boulder: In New York City, OM Factory offers a couple’s acro-yoga class on Valentine’s Day, and plenty of gyms offer evening classes. Lots of gyms — from high-end boutique studios to the YMCA — offer inexpensive child care while you work out, so pick a class that sounds fun for you and your partner and sign up together — just make sure to get there early so you can snag spots near each other.
How to Thrive
Try to pick an activity that’s within both of your comfort zones. If one person is more athletic, just adding heavier weights should be enough added challenge without ruining the “we’re in this together” vibe. If it’s a more cardio-oriented class and you’re the stronger of the two, make this night your “easy” night — there’s always time to go harder another day, but training together and actually enjoying it is worth more than a few extra calories burned. If someone has a medical condition, on the other hand, or is totally new to exercise it’s a good idea to consult your physician before starting any new routines.
One more reminder: Stay within your abilities! Don’t try to “beat” your partner by outdoing him or her with more weight or more reps. It won’t impress anyone — and can leave you too sore to enjoy the dinner afterward! If dinner isn’t included in your class, pre-plan a healthy restaurant choice for afterward and make reservations there as well, so you aren’t tempted to hit up the nearest fast food spot to pig out after an hourlong sweat session.