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10 Great Ways for Couples to Get in Shape What better way to motivate yourself to get in shape than by working out with your partner? From fitness walking to Ultimate Frisbee, here are some terrific activities to do together.


Illustration of couple in tennis whites.

Are you and your partner talking about how out of shape and FAT you feel? How you're in a rut, and you don't know where to start? Well, then, maybe you both need a complete overhaul of your lifestyle. Working out doesn't have to be boring or painful. Thirty minutes a day can do your body wonders.

You know that incredible feeling--that endorphin high--you get during and after a workout? Or maybe you've just heard about it. Well, it's true--working out arouses your mind, body and spirit, and also heightens your sense of accomplishment. Working out together allows you to have something in common: a goal of getting into shape and staying fit. You can change your lifestyle together.

Just think: You and your partner working out together with mutual satisfaction. Watching your partner working hard at breaking a sweat may be one of the sexiest things you could do to spice up your relationship. Working out is good for your health, self-confidence and sex life. Starting an exercise program will also take some of the burden off Canada's health-care system, which is having to treat more and more people with complications arising from weight issues in this super-size-me, couch-potato culture we live in--according to Statistics Canada, in 2003, 33 percent of Canadians were overweight.

Before you attempt a workout program or competitive sport with your lover, consider your current physical fitness levels, athletic backgrounds, competitive spirits and desired activities. Find something you can do together that both of you enjoy. Here are a few heart-rate-raising activities I recommend you do together.

Fitness Walking
Grab a good pair of running shoes, a bottle of water, comfortable clothes, and get walking! It's a great full-body workout that really gets your heart rate up. You will work every major muscle group in your legs, including your glutes. You can go through the mall, parks or your neighborhood, on various city bike paths or on the treadmill in front of your TV. To add some resistance to your walk, climb some hills--or if you have kids, push the baby stroller. Make sure you warm up by walking for 5 to 10 minutes with some light full-body stretching. Do a minimum 20-minute power walk followed by some stretching. Set aside some time to walk at least four days a week. Change your route to keep it interesting.

Weight Lifting
This is a great activity for couples because you don't have to be at the same fitness level as your partner, and you can motivate each other to push harder. You can be on your own machine pumping the iron you need in order to gain muscular strength. Most weight-training sessions involve sets or circuits, so you can swap the machines you are on--you will just have to adjust the weight on the machine so it's at your current level. Every 30 seconds or 15 repetitions, switch up with your partner until you are done your workout. Divide your body into parts to focus your workout. Do exercises for your legs, arms, chest, back and abdominals; warm up and stretch together; finally, cool down together. Both of you will be increasing your muscle strength and endurance. Lifting will also help you shed those excess pounds. Can't you hear it now? Gimme ten more!

Cycling
Perfect for the warmer months, and you can bring it indoors to a spinning class when it gets cold and rainy. To get the most out of your cycling, make sure both of your bikes are in proper working order. You can get a tune-up for about 30 bucks at most bike stores. For a good workout, hit a paved bike path or open road. If you have a mountain bike, find some trails and do hill repeats and climbs. If you're spinning, start with a 10-minute spin to warm up, then do 1-minute intervals--1 minute spinning really fast and 1 minute of easy spinning for a rest. Do it 10 times for a total of 20 minutes. After the intervals, do 10 minutes of easy spinning to cool down. To increase the intensity of the workout, up the interval time but not the rest time. Cycling is great for your legs, butt and upper body. Don't forget your helmet and water bottle.

Dancing
Not only is it a total blast, but it's also good for you--so long as you don't have too many calorie-packed beers or coolers on the side. Dancing helps the circulatory system as it makes your heart pump blood faster. It can also be used to help weight control and overall fitness. The movement and muscle extension during dance sessions provides a fun moderate workout. If you and your partner bust a move for an hour (even in your living room to ABBA!) you can burn about 300 calories. So go boogie!

Yoga
The benefits of yoga are endless: It provides increased muscle strength, flexibility, toning, and realignment of the muscles. It can be also be a wonderful cardiovascular workout. Many people experience psychological and spiritual benefits from yoga that include decreased stress and a better sense of self. Yoga can be done anywhere that the two of you have room to stretch out. You can do it in a class or in the privacy of your own home with an instructional video or yoga practice book. If you are going to practice with your partner, make sure to choose a class and to select postures that are suitable to both of your levels. Hatha, kundalini and ashtanga are the most common disciplines of yoga. Both your mind and body will benefit from the different types.

Hiking
Put some effort forward while hiking with your partner, and you will burn calories, lose excess pounds and improve your health. Not only that, but you will also decrease stress and anxiety. Hiking doesn't have to be done on Mount Kilimanjaro; you can use parklands and designated hiking trails. Hiking provides benefits to the mind, body and spirit, and can improve your muscular strength, especially in the legs. Note: For those who may be wondering, YES, there is a big difference between fitness walking and hiking. Walking, as I mention earlier, can be done just about anywhere; hiking can't. Hiking requires more skill and ability. Many hikes have inclines and declines that require additional gear, like special climbing shoes, hiking poles, navigational tools and maybe even overnight gear to lug around. You can't be out of shape and attempt an intense hike. Most hikes require at least an average fitness level whereas fitness walks can be the best activity for those just starting an exercise program.

Ultimate Frisbee
Running, throwing and catching are the key physical skills used in Ultimate Frisbee. Coed Ultimate leagues are popping up all over the place as the sport grows in popularity, so you and your honey can join together. And bonus: It's a fairly easy game to understand and pick up. This team sport will give you an awesome full-body workout. Ultimate requires many quick changes in your speed and direction. Don't forget to warm up with a light jog and some full-body stretching!

Sex
George Michael says it best: "Sex is natural, sex is good. Not everybody does it but everybody should." Sex can do more than turn you on. It can burn calories, rev up your heart and increase your flexibility. It's believed that regular sex can decrease a man's risk of a heart attack. If you are physically fit, you will have a stronger cardiovascular system and better circulation. The end result is a better sex life. So what are you waiting for? Just do it!

Boxing
Doing boxing workouts together will really knock you out! Boxing is an old sport that's become new again. Many fitness clubs offer up boxercise and kick-boxing classes. Some also have punching bags for their members to use. Boxing is a good way to relieve stress and build muscle strength and endurance. There are many types of punches (underhand or crossover jabs) and kicks, using proper stances for power, that will keep you going and give you a workout. If you prefer to box at home, you can purchase a kick-boxing video for about $15, a punching bag for about $100 and gloves for under $50.

Racquet Sports
Racquet sports are a great way for you to get some exercise while spending quality time with your partner. Tennis, badminton and squash all offer up similar benefits, including increased muscle tone, strength and flexibility. You can play singles or doubles depending on how much exercise you want to get. Racquet sports, especially at a competitive level, require some speed, strength, agility, and other specific skills. All of the games involve starts and stops with short bursts of energy and short periods of rest. To prevent injury, do a good full-body warm-up before you play, and stretch afterward.

Tonya Rouse Hillebrand is a certified fitness and nutrition expert, and a former national triathlete and duathlon team member.