According to the Valentine's edition of the MultiSport Index survey, 91% of Poles believe that physical activity has a positive impact on feeling attractive and nearly half of them think sport increases their chances of meeting a partner. What do love and sport have in common? Experts argue that they share similar chemical reactions in the body.
– According to the Valentine's edition of the MultiSport Index survey, 91% of Poles believe that physical activity not only improves their mood but also positively affects their sense of being attractive. In addition, 47% of us think that practising sports increases the chance of finding a partner. Interestingly, men (57%) agree with this statement much more often, most of them aged 25-29 (54%) and 50-59 (51%) – says Dr Adam Waszkowski, Director of the Analysis Department at Benefit Systems.
As experts argue, physical activity is a very interesting parameter of attractiveness, which we intuitively combine not only with the desired physical features, such as a slim, athletic figure, but also with positive character traits.
– When we see a person practising sport, we assume that this person is confident, systematic, sociable, open to challenges or more sexually fit – this is the so-called halo effect. All these features are identified with attractiveness and naturally arouse our interest – emphasises Dr Robert Kowalczyk, sexologist.
One training short of a… love affair
As many as 48% of Poles also believe that a good place “to fall in love at first sight” is a fitness club. – Considering the data from the MultiSport Index 2019 report, almost five million Poles can potentially find their other half in fitness clubs and gyms – adds Dr Adam Waszkowski.
According to the theory of social psychology, people like ourselves who follow the same positive values gain our attention and sympathy. If we care about health and are physically active, it is in the gym that the chance of meeting someone who has similar habits and aspirations increases. In addition, we like people we meet regularly much more.
– However, it is worth being careful not to mistake sports euphoria for falling in love. After a sports training we are in a state of physical arousal – our heart beats faster, our circulation improves and the same hormones that appear when we are in love are released. According to Schachter's theory, if our attention is drawn by a handsome man or an attractive woman in such a situation, we can subconsciously mistake the source of our arousal, attributing it to the encountered person instead of physical training – adds Dr Robert Kowalczyk.
We experience love and sport in a similar way
How is it possible that infatuation can be mistaken for euphoria after training? It turns out that the state of being in love and physical activity share similar brain chemistry.
– When being active gives us pleasure, the same brain circuits as in the state of being in love are activated. We can observe increased activity of the nucleus accumbens – the brain structure that makes us feel good – says Dr Paweł Boguszewski, neurobiologist.
Those areas of the brain that become deactivated – both when we are in love and during physical activity performed for relaxation – are also important. The activity of amygdala – the structure responsible for detecting danger and anxiety – is reduced. We are less afraid. As a result of rhythmic movement and in the state of love, the activity of the prefrontal cortex also goes down – the ability to think analytically and detect potential threats decreases.
– The concentration of neurotransmitters, i.e. chemicals such as dopamine and endorphins, which are responsible for happiness, increases. With long-lasting love relationships, neurohormones such as oxytocin and vasopressin, responsible for creating durable bonds, complete the picture. It is possible that they also make us fall in love with physical activity more willingly. The fact that we experience the effects of physical activity and falling in love in a similar way is good information for singles who can feel the proverbial butterflies in their stomach thanks to training – adds Dr Paweł Boguszewski.
Joint activity supports relationships
According to the Valentine's edition of the MultiSport Index survey, 75% of Poles recognise that physical activity has a positive effect on their relationship with a partner.
– Building long-lasting and positive relationships with a partner is influenced not only by expressed feelings towards the partner, a general sense of happiness in relationships or sex, but also by spending time and taking up new challenges together. Physical activity can certainly combine the last two elements – says Dr Robert Kowalczyk.
It turns out that joint training with the object of our attention can intensify the state of euphoria and make us feel better than doing sports alone.
– When we undertake joint physical activity, especially when we perform exercises synchronously, our brain activates systems of mirror neurons – groups of nerve cells that allow us to understand the movement, emotions and feelings of the other person. This synchronisation can intensify pleasure, which compensates for the considerable effort for our brain related to interpersonal contacts. It is noteworthy that, according to the MultiSport Index 2019 survey, half of the physically active Poles choose to train in the company – adds Dr Paweł Boguszewski.
Poles consider training in the gym, running, walking, swimming, cycling and dancing as sports conducive to building relationships.
Video material: https://vimeo.com/390684441
The Valentine's edition of the MultiSport Index survey was conducted by Kantar commissioned by Benefit Systems on January 13-14, 2020 on a representative random sample of 1000 Poles aged 18-59. The survey was conducted using Computer Assisted Telephone Interviewing (CATI). Interviews were carried out using the Kartezjusz platform.