RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—Women in relationships always seem to get the short end of the stick. Study after study has found that women put on weight after they get married and have a difficult time losing it after they have children. But a new study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology has found that men are more likely to ease up on their fitness routines after the wedding bells have quieted down than women are, which could lead to late-life weight gain.
THE DETAILS: The authors used survey data from a long-running study conducted on adults at a clinic in Texas. Their sample included 8,871 participants—a majority of whom were men—who had undergone an initial treadmill fitness test and a second follow-up test about three years later. Those results were then compared with each person's marital status when he or she came in for the initial test and for the follow-up.
Most (about 85 percent) of the participants were married at both the start of the study and at follow-up. Among the remaining 15 percent of participants, fitness scores remained constant among men who remained single, but they declined for single men who got married.
Fitness scores actually increased among single women who remained single, while scores for single women who got married remained the same. Among divorcees, married men who got divorced saw an increase in fitness levels, while divorced men who remarried became less fit. Married women who got divorced saw a decrease in fitness levels.
WHAT IT MEANS: Seems like husbands could benefit from following their wives to the gym, or on their daily walks, or whatever other activity women do to keep up their fitness levels. The authors admit that the high number of men in their sample may have skewed their results a little, but what they found does coincide with what they called the "marriage market hypothesis," in which married individuals aren't as concerned about their need to attract a mate as single people are. Past research and results of the current study suggest that this hypothesis may hold true for men more so than women.
That's good news for women, but men apparantly have a harder time keeping up with their exercises after the honeymoon. And while it's one thing to get your husband to come with you when you take your dog for a walk, it's another to keep him motivated to do that day after day. A survey from Ohio State University published earlier this year found that men are more motivated to exercise when they get support from friends; women are more successful when the support comes from their spouse and family.