Research shows that couples share similar health habits and routines. The same is true for our wider social circle—we even up similar cardiovascular disease risks to those we spend a lot of time with. This Valentine’s Day, fall in love with your heart health and find ways to motivate your friends and loved ones to do the same.
Be the heart-healthy change you want to see in the world
If you want to motivate those around you to be healthy, you need to show instead of tell. That’s according to Kathryn Werner, a psychiatry physician’s assistant with a degree in health promotion.
“The techniques people use to motivate others often have the opposite effect. Instead of being encouraging, they’re often perceived as critical and create a feeling of inadequacy or shame, which then decreases action,” warns Werner.
“One of the best ways to motivate others to be healthy is to make our own healthy behaviours—and the benefits of them—known,” she says, referring to research on mirror neurons (where people do specific actions based on what they see someone else do). “For example, eating healthier yourself and then being really energetic and happy is a great advertisement for healthy eating!”
Nudge, don’t nag
“I encourage clients to use nutrition nudging versus nutrition nagging,” says Andrea Holwegner, RD. Nudging involves making an item look appealing or easy to grab. “For example, to nudge my family to get more heart-healthy protein and fiber, I place a bowl of pistachios on the counter with washed berries. Because these are quick to grab, taste good, and are visually appealing, my family eats this heart-healthy option without me ever saying anything. This is the power of nutrition nudging versus nutrition nagging. Give it a try!”
Make food a family affair
When we get our friends or family engaged in their own healthy decisions, researchers say the beneficial results are longer lasting than if we tell them what to do, or if we simply do it for them. Plus, it’s a great way to be a healthy role model and can help you grow closer together in your relationships.
“Suggest to each other healthier food options or restaurants,” suggests registered dietitian and nutritionist Katie Tomaschko. “Grocery shopping and planning meals together is also a great way to encourage each other to make heart-healthy food decisions.”
For example, she recommends trying “Meatless Mondays” or another designated day of the week to opt for more plant-based foods. Multiple studies have shown that eating more plants doesn’t just boost your heart health but can also lower your risks of numerous health concerns, including cancer and diabetes.
Even dedicated meat lovers can find the process of experimenting with cooking different plant-based proteins—such as seitan, tempeh, or even premade vegan “meat roasts”—a fun process.
“Play with different seasonings, spices, and condiments,” says Tomaschko. “Or, try different cooking methods, like using appliances such as an air fryer.”
Exercise is one of the most beneficial things you can do for your general wellness and longevity. It also improves all major markers of heart health, including blood pressure and cholesterol. For example, one study on older men found that just 20 minutes of exercise a day reduced the risks of heart problems by 52 percent.
Studies have found that exercise is an incredibly social activity. People who exercise with friends—or even with strangers in a group boot camp or class—push themselves harder and stick with their exercise routine longer.
Try these tricks to build motivation for yourself and your loved ones.
Get competitive and be accountable
“You can motivate each other by participating in friendly movement or step competitions on an app or through your smartwatch,” suggests Tomaschko. Choose a heart-healthy reward for the winner, such as getting a massage or splurging on premium workout gear.
Make it part of your routine
Turn movement into a ritual, such as going for a walk together each night after dinner. “Physical activity releases feel-good and stress-releasing neurotransmitters,” says Werner. It’s well established that if it’s not dealt with, stress can contribute to heart disease. “And by doing this together, you’re also strengthening your relationship,” adds Werner.
Think outside the gym
Your friend or loved one may find the gym intimidating, but heart-healthy movement doesn’t have to be on a treadmill. “Take advantage of the upcoming mild spring weather and plan for hikes or walks,” says Tomaschko. “Even taking the dog on a walk counts!”
Keep the wellness journey lighthearted
Whatever health goals you have for your friends and family, stay positive. “We often think of <eliminating> unhealthy behaviours, but one of the best ways to move towards health is to focus on <increasing> healthy behaviours,” notes Werner.
Making lifestyle changes can be stressful, and stress is bad for your heart. “Increasing fun is a good way to decrease stress,” suggests Werner. “Finding activities that you enjoy as a couple, and trying new things together, will both increase goodwill and decrease stress. Bonus points if these things—gardening together, dancing, etc.—have other health benefits!”
[SIDEBAR] [IVA: Note from Josh: I’m envisioning more of an infographic style and not an actual formal table, where each benefit is floating next to the supplement name in a bubble or uniquely coloured background that lends some visual movement and dynamism into the sidebar!]
Supplements your heart will love
These supplemental supports are good for your heart <and> help to improve your heart-healthy workout performance. Keep your supplements drawer tidy and use a pill organizer to keep you and your loved ones motivated and on track!
Supplement name Heart benefits Exercise benefits [CHARTHEADS] coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) may help treat heart failure and also treat and prevent diabetes (having diabetes doubles your risk of heart disease) reduces fatigue and increases performance omega-3s improves heart disease risk factors, such as triglyceride numbers and blood pressure improves workout recovery and boosts muscle strength curcumin may reverse the development of heart disease enhances muscle performance and reduces inflammation whey protein powder compared to high-fat diets, protein-rich diets guard against heart disease supports muscle growth and strength and improves post-workout recovery