Once upon a time, working out involved walking into a gym, doing your thing, then leaving to go about the rest of your day. The only person you’d talk to might be the front-desk receptionist or the guy hogging the one rowing machine.
That story line has long since ended.
For many, fitness has evolved into an opportunity to meet cool and like-minded people—new friends, sure, but increasingly, romantic partners.
In the past three years alone, at least half a dozen dating apps have sprung up that match users based on mutual workout pursuits. (Check out a few below.)
25% of pairs who flirt at the gym end up in a relationship together.
Wellness-themed social clubs like NYC’s Wellvyl and the multi-city Racked Fit Club—as well as gyms themselves—often host speed-dating and singles events for members, sometimes featuring an exercise class as part of the evening.
Of course, sheer convenience plays a role in the trend. It makes sense that as people amp up the time they spend being active (last year, for the first time ever recorded, more than half of Americans met the recommended physical-activity guidelines, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), they may have less time for standard socializing, dating included.
Combining the two worlds could be, to put it unromantically, a way to optimize your jam-packed schedule. But there’s also a much bigger current at work: the ability to handpick a partner who values healthy living—and enjoys the same sweat escape you do.
If you like to work out, you’re wired to fall for someone else who does, too
“We also seek validation, which is easier to find with a person who shares our specific interests,” says Theresa DiDonato, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychology at Loyola University Maryland. The data proves it: 83 percent of people who regularly exercise want a mate who’s equally active, reveals a 2018 survey from online-dating service Zoosk.
Take Abby Margulies, 35, a communications professional who met Charles while rock climbing, a sport she’s loved since college. They started as friends, both dating other people. But after seven months of hanging out, they couldn’t deny their chemistry. Once single, they finally got together, and five years later, the two are married, living (and belaying) in Berkeley, California.
There’s actual ~science~ to explain why you’re so into fit dudes
Abby’s experience confirms a fascinating theory: If you sweat in a room with someone you find attractive, you’ll likely be even more turned on than if you were just standing behind him in line at Starbucks.
It’s not just the pheromones (hormonal scent signals) in male sweat that get you going, though research has found that’s part of it.
“When your body is physiologically aroused, like during a workout, any emotions you’re feeling are intensified,” explains social psychology professor Madeleine Fugère, Ph.D., author of The Social Psychology of Attraction and Romantic Relationships. Studies suggest that’s because our brains can’t tell the difference between excitement from exercise (a quickening pulse, flushed cheeks, clammy palms) and from sexual desire (a quickening pulse, flushed cheeks, clammy palms), so the first gets interpreted as the latter.
Just ask Alyssa Simm, 26, an account manager and marathon runner in New York City who met Jeremy, an avid tennis player, through the Sweatt app. “I found him cute and smart, and I felt immediately at ease because he understood my wake-up-at-five-and-run lifestyle,” she says.
“But when we went to the gym together very shortly after our first date, he suddenly became this insanely hot guy I needed to see again. As I watched him push his body, I wanted to get closer to him.”
That solid bond is more likely to last, too
The heart-eyes effect from fitness doesn’t vanish once you become an established twosome. Those who regularly participate in physical activity together actually report greater feelings of relationship satisfaction and being in love, research shows. (P.S. The benefit still stands if you linked up awhile ago but only recently started sweating as a pair.)
“Sharing something that holds deep meaning to your identity can help create a solid foundation.”
You’ll also have a better shot at forever: Experts say that couples who have similar world views, an interest in health and fitness included, are more likely to last in the long run, and 64 percent of married adults believe shared interests are more important than any other factor for a successful marriage, per a Pew Research Center survey.
“Sharing something that holds deep meaning to your identity can help create a solid foundation for a long-term relationship,” says DiDonato.
Veronica Bertrand, a 28-year-old teacher in Naples, Florida, met her now-fiancé at her CrossFit box, where he proposed three years later—and she’s experienced this firsthand.
“When we hit a rough patch, it was attending the same CrossFit events and connecting with the same circle of friends that reminded us that we met for a reason,”she says. “Most people spend time away from their significant other and do their own thing when they argue, but doing our own thing was doing the same thing. We never had a chance to grow apart.”
This article originally appeared in the June 2018 issue of Women’s Health Magazine. For more great advice, pick up a copy on newsstands now.
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