My first serious boyfriend and I broke up at the start of my junior year of college, and even though it was a long time coming, I was pretty heartbroken over it. Rather than wallow for the next six months, though (which, BTW, is perfectly fine and sometimes necessary), I literally hit the ground running. These days, I’m happily married to a wonderful man, but I’m also in a happy, committed relationship with exercise — and to think it all started with a change in my relationship status, right? According to new research, your love life can affect your health — both physically and mentally — so the next time you’re changing your relationship status on social media, instead of reminiscing over the past, consider how the experience may be affecting your present state of mind.
The new research was conducted by a team of scientists at the University of Jyväskylä in Finland between 2007 and 2011, and included both male and female participants between the ages of 34 and 49 years old. As per a press release from the university, the study looked at wearable step-tracker data over that four-year time period, and each participant’s physical activity was analyzed based on how it fluctuated in relation to the person’s relationship status.
In total, 1,051 participants were studied throughout the experiment, and according to the findings, which have been published in the Scandinavian Journal of Public Health, men who divorced during this time period, and women who entered new relationships, reduced their steps, while newly married women increased their physical activity. So while the common assumption is that people typically get into a workout routine right after a breakup, this research suggests that any shift in your love life — be it positive or negative — may change how you take care of your body.
So what, exactly, does your love for another human have to do with how you care for yourself? According to Samantha Morrison, health and wellness expert for Glacier Wellness, everything. "Having a significant other is one of the most grounding components in life, so it should come as no surprise that a change in relationship status can shake things up," she tells Elite Daily over email.
For example, when you cut ties with a significant other, that "blow to [your] confidence," Morrison explains, can often result in either trying to overcompensate in your wellness routine, or you might "fall into an abyss of self-loathing," says Morrison, and more or less forget to make health a priority. It's not that you don't care about your well-being at all; it's more likely that you just don't care enough in that moment because of the pain you're enduring, according to Morrison.
Keep in mind, though, that your workout habits can also change — for better or for worse — when you start a relationship, too, as the Scandinavian study found that married women appeared to be more physically active than women who'd just entered a relationship, and one of the reasons why that might be, award-winning therapist Shannon Thomas tells Elite Daily, is that regular exercise can trigger a kind of “placebo effect” that literally “changes the health of the gray matter in your brain” and sharpens your cognitive function, causing you to see life more positively and clearly. Romance can ignite that rose-tinted glasses effect, too, says Thomas, so because you’re getting that happy-go-lucky feeling from your partner at the beginning of a relationship, your desire to exercise may dwindle as a result.
Ironically enough, in that instance, it isn’t even the case of putting someone else’s well-being before your own because, technically you are. You know what makes you feel good, and there’s no shame in pursuing that. However, whether you’re experiencing the honeymoon phase of a budding relationship, have been comfortable long-term for quite some time, or have recently split from your SO, your physical health has to be a priority in order to keep your mental health leveled, too.
“One of the promises we need to make with ourselves is that we will not allow a new relationship to consume our schedule,” Thomas says. “We have to be mindful to maintain the quality of life we established prior to love.” In other words, enjoy your relationship, or freedom of ties, but at the same time, make sure your health — both physical and mental — is a priority. Create a regular exercise routine you genuinely enjoy, eat foods that nourish your body, and make time for friends and family. The key to any successful relationship — be it with a partner or yourself — is balance. As long as you're able to find yours, your health will thrive.