The saying goes that diamonds are a girl's best friend, but there may be an even better way to get your significant other's heart racing.
Planning an exercise regimen for you and your partner may not seem romantic, but you'd be surprised. Experts say couples who work out together can reap a variety of benefits.
Helen Ryan, a certified personal trainer from Temecula, became interested in the topic when she started losing weight nine years ago without the full support of her husband.
"We were together for 21 years," Ryan said. "As I started to develop an interest in fitness, he did some things now and then, but he wasn't interested in anything physical.
"That actually posed part of the problem because I was interested in exercising and he wasn't. I think we really missed the boat on things we could have done together."
Eventually the two would divorce. After changing her own life by losing her extra pounds, she got into the business of helping others do the same as a personal trainer.
Ryan says one of the main benefits she's seen for couples who work out together is what she calls "guilt-free workouts." Doing it together means you don't have to choose fitness over time with your partner, she explains.
Plus, couples who work out together increase their chances of sticking to their fitness regimen by 90 percent than if they were doing it alone, Ryan adds.
But there are also benefits for the relationship.
"Working out together actually helps you bond because you're working for a common goal, a common issue and you really have that time together," Ryan says.
"I think one thing that's important for people is to do things that they usually don't do. There's a whole different type of bonding that goes on and hormones are released when you do things that are new, exciting and different. So if you pick an activity that neither person knows how to do, that's kind of fun because you learn together."
Some examples of activities Southern California couples can participate in are in-line skating, tennis, water sports like paddleboarding or kayaking, tandem cycling and even laser tag, says Ryan.
Tandem cycling can seem like marriage counseling because if couples don't work together, the tandem bike won't go anywhere - or at least not where you want it to.
Martial arts is another activity she says is good for couples to learn together because it is a whole-body workout that also allows close physical contact.
Getting physical is actually another benefit for couples who get fit together.
"Couples who work out together tend to have better sex lives because they feel better about themselves," Ryan said. "They are more comfortable with themselves, and also it increases testosterone in both men and women, which increases sex drive."
Moe Gelbart of Gelbart and Associates, a psychologist and licensed marital and family therapist in Torrance, agrees that there are tremendous benefits to couples who exercise together, including bonding and improved intimacy.
People who exercise can experience an increased sense of self-esteem, and couples who exercise together are more likely to find each other physically attractive. Plus, energy increases along with endorphins.
But the most important benefit, he says, comes from simply being with each other.
"There is a lot of research that says couples who spend time together do better," Gelbart says. "When one person is physically very active and the other person isn't and is not in very good shape, it can cause conflict.
"Say the wife wants to take a bike ride on the strand and the husband is overweight and hasn't ridden a bike in a long time; that becomes a problem."
For Marc and Kirsten Sommer of Hermosa Beach, exercise was how they met.
Kirsten hired Marc as her personal trainer and the duo bonded over their passion for exercise.
They have been together five years now, married for one, and have continued working out together regularly.
"It's another way of spending time together," Kirsten says. "It's always fun and it's good for the relationship to have similar interests."
They also say working out together has helped them feel more comfortable about being themselves.
Working out together "means the world to us," Marc says. "I think every couple should work out together. When you sweat together, it's just, you're yourself."
For couples who are not in the same physical shape, Ryan recommends activities like spinning classes, which allow individuals to work at different endurance levels and speeds.
Trying new activities also helps balance out the possible fitness inequalities, Ryan says.
For those individuals who are afraid of looking foolish in front of their significant other, Ryan says they should start by hiking or walking on the beach.
Working out together may not eliminate the need for Valentine's Day gifts, but it can be a valuable relationship tool, particularly for couples who need a spark to do something a little different.
And exercise is an opportunity to spend time together.
Ryan said couples might be tired of going out to dinner or to see a movie.
"Doing something different will really shake things up in a relationship," Ryan said. "And being active overall means better health and better everything, so you have a much better quality of life and a longer life when you exercise together."