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Friday, September 18, 2020

Explained: New research says couples can shed more weight together than alone

The aim of the study was to find out if partner involvement in lifestyle programmes impacted behaviour changes of those who had suffered heart attacks. 

By: Explained Desk | New Delhi | Updated: August 28, 2020 8:22:13 am
weight loss, lifestyle changes, partner involvement in weight loss, express explainedThe findings have implications for the involvement of partners in lifestyle interventions becoming a routine practice. (Reuters photo for representation)

Can partner involvement affect one’s weight loss journey? According to a new research on hearth attack survivors, yes.

The research, presented at the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) Congress 2020, says heart attack survivors are more likely to lose weight when their partners join in the effort.

What is the research about?

The aim of the study was to find out if partner involvement in lifestyle programmes impacted behaviour changes of those who had suffered heart attacks.

The researchers studied the influence partners had on modifying patients’ lifestyle-related risk factors (LRFs) after a heart attack. In their analysis of 824 individuals, the researchers found that patients whose partners participated in interventions with them were the most successful in reducing weight.

The 824 individuals were randomly assigned two groups–the first group was the intervention group, which meant individuals in this group were involved in lifestyle programmes for weight reduction, physical activity, and smoking cessation depending on their needs and preferences; and the second group called the control group, which received usual care. Usual care involved visits to the cardiologist and cardiac rehabilitation plus up to four visits to a nurse-coordinated programme to encourage healthy living and prevent recurrent heart attacks.

Partners of those in the intervention group could attend the lifestyle programmes for free and were encouraged by nurses to participate. For the 411 in the intervention programme, nearly half of the partners (48 per  cent) took part with them.

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So what did the study find?

The study found that patients with a participating partner were more than twice as likely to improve in at least one of the three areas (weight loss, exercise, smoking cessation) within a year.

Further, when the influence of partners was analysed on the three areas separately, patients with a participating partner were most successful in reducing weight compared with patients without a partner.

The study’s author, Lotte Verweij, said in a press release that when couples have comparable lifestyles, changing habits becomes difficult when only one person is making the effort. “Practical issues come into play, such as grocery shopping, but also psychological challenges, where a supportive partner may help maintain motivation,” she said.

The findings have implications for the involvement of partners in lifestyle interventions becoming a routine practice.

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Has this been demonstrated before?

In 2018, a study analysed 389 individuals who were trying to lose weight and living with their romantic partners, identifying four “relational environments” in which the couples lose weight.

This included synchronised environments where both partners had a positive attitude towards losing weight and acted as a team to pursue the goal, the second environment called “lone battlers” was characterised by low team effort, the third “contentious cooperatives” was characterised by moderation in all three relational characteristics. The relational characteristics were team effort, how much partners had opposing approaches to weight loss and individuals’ difficulty in balancing their weight loss goals within their relationship goals.

The fourth relational environment was low in all the three relational characteristics.

The study concluded that couples that are trying to lose weight end up straining their relationship if they are using unsuitable strategies to realise their goals.

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