In the News - February 2013
Nagging counterproductive when spouse needs to make healthy living change
- Nagging is counterproductive in helping spouse or family member to make a lifestyle change
- Support, togetherness helpful
LITTLE ROCK – When trying to change behavior, friends and family can be a source of support or sabotage, said Lisa Washburn, assistant professor-health, for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.
“When it comes to exercise, the attitudes and beliefs of one spouse can affect the habits of the other, for better or for worse,” she said.
That set of beliefs and attitudes can result in nagging or criticism – no-no’s if a positive change is to result, Washburn said.
“Well-intentioned reminders to exercise may do more harm than good,” she said. “No one likes to be nagged. Studies suggest spousal nagging about positive health behaviors, like exercising, make a person less likely engage in the behavior. “
One study found that spouses were less physically active when criticized for not exercising more. Reminders to exercise more, or being watched to make sure they exercised, were also associated with less physical activity
To help your special someone adopt healthier behaviors, encouragement is more effective than criticism, Washburn said. A few other tactics for being a healthy supporter for your spouse:
- Strike a balance. “It’s important to strike a balance between supporting your spouse’s healthy choices and pressuring or judging him or her,” she said. When partners feel judged, attempts to adopt healthier behaviors can be stifled. However, some studies have found that reminders to eat healthier and be more active can be helpful if your partner perceives such suggestions are offered in a way sensitive to his or her feelings.
- Be supportive. To offer your spouse or partner support in adopting healthier behaviors, compliment their efforts to change. “Using affirming statements, such as, ‘You are doing a good job maintaining an exercise routine,’ and congratulations on their efforts can help new habits to stick,” Washburn said. Another way to support a spouse’s healthy choices is to help them carry out the targeted behavior. This practical type of support is associated with maintaining and increasing physical activity. For example, couples who exercise together are more likely to exercise regularly.
- In this together. Couples are more successful when they feel they are “in this together” and understand that each partner’s efforts to be healthy help or hinder efforts of their significant other.
Despite efforts to be supportive, some may feel the urge to offer directives bordering on nagging, she said.
“When offered in combination with support and affirmation, such directives, used sparingly, can support healthy habits,” Washburn said. “Gentle and sensitive reminders can be helpful if your spouse is not feeling confident he or she can adopt new habits, or is tempted to skip new behaviors. These reminders will be more effective if coupled with encouragement.”
For more information about healthier living or family relationships, visit www.uaex.edu or contact your county extension office.
The Cooperative Extension Service is part of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture and offers its programs to all eligible persons regardless of race, color, national origin, religion, gender, age, disability, marital or veteran status, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.
February 8, 2013
By the Cooperative Extension Service
U of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture
Media Contact: Mary Hightower
Extension Communications Specialist
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
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