There will be no cheesy heart-shaped chocolates box or standard bouquet of red roses this year. Health and fitness is a growing trend, and we think that should carry over into how we choose to celebrate holidays, too — it’s just more interesting that way. Take a break from the typical this Valentine’s day and try one of these fun ideas instead of an old standard.
For Fitness Buffs
1. Go ice skating.
Since it’s super cold in most parts of the country, why not take advantage of the frigid temps and use one of nature’s best wintery gifts: ice! Ice skating is a great low-impact workout (assuming you’re skipping the intense jumps). Just make sure to take the right steps to safely exercise in the cold.
2. Take a hike.
Getting some fresh air with a nice daytime hike is a great way to spend some quality time with your S.O. while getting in a good workout. Plus, walking regularly can help lower blood pressure, manage weight, improve mood, and reduce risk for type-2 diabetes. Studies have also linked being outdoors and in nature to boost energy. If you’re looking for a weekend-long way to celebrate, turn your hike into a camping trip! Just be careful if trekking through a snow-covered forest…
3. Just dance.
Twirling around the dance floor with a hot date on your arm might just be the most classic night out, ever. And it’s a good way to get some aerobic exercise, too Dance as a form of exercise. Bremer, Z. British Journal of General Practice, 2007 February 1; 57(535):166.! (Just forego the high heels, please.) Feeling adventurous? Try pole dancing for a sexier twist.
4. Run a race together.
A little healthy competition never hurt anyone! Hitting the pavement with your Valentine is a great way to get in a good sweat sesh and some much needed quality time. Time spent working out together may also increase trust between partners and even strengthen feelings of closeness (at least for women) The roles of testosterone and alpha-amylase in exercise-induced sexual arousal in women. Hamilton, LD, Fogle, EA, Meston, CM. University of Texas at Austin-Psychology, Austin, TX. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 2008 Apr;5(4):845-53.. Plus, you can motivate each other to make it to the finish.
5. Get Zen at an evening yoga class.
A couple that stretches together, stays together? Research suggests that frequent yoga practice can lead to improved mood and satisfaction with life, and many studies also point to yoga’s many physical benefits (including strength, flexibility, and respiratory and cardiovascular function) Exploring the therapeutic effects of yoga and its ability to increase quality of life. Woodyard, C. Department of Health, Exercise Science, and Recreation Management, The University of Mississippi, The Center for Health and Behavior Research, University, MS. International Journal of Yoga, 2011 Jul;4(2):49-54.. And here’s yet another great bonus: Some studies suggest yoga can improve female sexual function Yoga in female sexual functions. Dhikav, V., Karmakar, G., Gupta, R., et al. Department of Neurology, GGS-IP University Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital, new Delhi, Rohini, India. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 2010 Feb;7(2 Pt 2):964-70..
6. Go for a tandem bike ride.
No better way to celebrate V-Day than practicing teamwork! Plus (let’s just be honest), tandem bikes are pretty funny, so you’ll get a good laugh out of it, too. Head to a local park or scenic district for a leisurely ride, then grab a Valentine’s-friendly treat afterwards.
7. Take a swing at golf or tennis.
Whether you and your partner are already pros or it’s totally new to one or both of you, taking a golf or tennis lesson is a great way to sweat a little and learn something new together. (Plus, it’s a great excuse to get close to each other while learning the “proper stance.”) Playing tennis, specifically, is associated with a number of health benefits, including improved aerobic fitness, reduced risk for developing cardiovascular disease, and better bone health Health benefits of tennis. Pluim, B.M., Staal, J.B., Marks, B.L., et al. Royal Netherlands Lawn Tennis Association, Amersfoort, The Netherlands. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 2007 Nov;41(11):760-8.
8. Go kayaking.
If you’re lucky enough to live in a climate with a more temperate February, kayaking is a great adventure sport — and low-impact workout — to try out with a date. Hop in a tandem boat to share the paddling load (and be sure to end the date with a good post-workout snack on the shore).
9. Treat each other to a massage.
Whether it’s a rub down from a professional or your partner, massage brings a bevy of health benefits to the table. Research suggests massage can help reduce stress and anxiety (especially in the workplace, in patients with heart problems, and possibly in those with chronic back pain), though more research is needed Effect of Back Massage Intervention on Anxiety, Comfort, and Physiologic Responses in Patients with Congestive Heart Failure. Chen, WL, Liu, GJ, Yeh, SH, et al. Graduate Institute of Nursing, Kaohsiung Medical University, Kaohsiung, Taiwan. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 2012 Nov 27. The effectiveness of Swedish massage and traditional Thai massage in treating chronic low back pain: a review of the literature. Netchanok, S., Wendy, M., Marie, C., et al. School of Nursing and Midwifery, Research Centre for Clinical and Community Practice Innovation, Griffith Health Institute, Griffith University, Nathan, Australia. Complimentary Therapies in Clinical Practice, 2012 Nov;18(4):227-34. . And of course, massages are also a great excuse to get some hands-on time (literally!) with your Valentine.
10. Spend some time just kissing.
Believe it or not, there’s plenty of science behind why we kiss. In addition to triggering feelings of closeness, sexual excitement, and pure happiness, studies suggest kissing can help us find Mr. or Mrs. Right and stay committed to that person. When engaged in a lip lock, serotonin and oxytocin hormone levels spike, making us think more about that partner and creating feelings of bonding and attachment. (Not surprisingly, oxytocin is known as the “love hormone.”) Plus, kissing can boost immunity, help you relax, and even burn calories.
For Food Lovers
11. Make your own sushi.
Yes, it can be a dangerfood. But when you’re in charge of the ingredients, it’s easy to avoid anything unnecessarily unhealthy. Tackling an interesting new recipe or cooking method together will push you both out of your comfort zones, and making sushi will allow you to explore your more creative sides, too. Keep it healthier by choosing brown rice over white and forgoing the creamy sauces. Need some filling inspiration? Check out this graphic with some of the most popular rolls.
12. Let someone else do the shopping.
It’s a little too late to surprise your Valentine with this gift on Valentine’s day, but you can still make next week’s meal planning much easier! A number of new grocery delivery and meal planning services — including Blue Apron, Plated, and HelloFresh — make cooking a delicious, healthy meal easier than ever by taking the prep work out of it. Check out their respective websites to see if they deliver to your area. Each of these services deliver pre-measured ingredients with recipes to your doorstep. All that’s left to do is follow the cooking instructions.
13. Take a picnic lunch.
It’s time to break the habit of eating lunch while at your computer — studies even suggest it may lead to overeating Playing a computer game at lunch affects fullness, memory for lunch, and later snack intake. Oldham-Cooper, RE, Hardman, CA, Nicoll, CE, et al. Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2011 Feb; 93(2):308-13.. A non-traditional Valentine’s Day lunch is the perfect way to start. Pack a healthy picnic lunch (like this quinoa and kale salad) and a sweet treat (it wouldn’t be Valentine’s Day without it!), and set up shop on a nearby park bench.
14. Make your own dark chocolate fondue.
It’s no secret we’re big fans of dark chocolate here at Greatist. But when you start dipping fresh fruit in that chocolate? Even better. Hop on the DIY train and make a simple chocolate fondue dip to enjoy while snuggling with your V-day date. This is also totally acceptable to do any other night, alone, or with friends. (Bonus points if you use fair trade chocolate!)
15. Cook a red-themed dinner together.
We’ve all heard the more brightly-colored the produce, the better for you. And as it turns out, many naturally bright red foods really are pretty healthy. Crimson-hued foods (such as beets, strawberries, and cherries) are packed with nutrients like lycopene, vitamin A, vitamin C, and antioxidants. These nutrients are great for a number of reasons, from helping protect you from the sun (thanks, lycopene!) to boosting metabolism (hellooo hot peppers). Choose some of your favorite red superfoods and organize dinner and dessert around that theme.
16. Let the pros guide you.
If your date for the evening can name the chef of any restaurant you mention (and their life stories), we have the perfect app to help you find the perfect date night location. Find.Eat.Drink. is a new app that’s essentially your very own restaurant/bar/coffee shop/gourmet shop guide. It’s stacked with recs from the industry’s leading chefs, baristas, butchers, and the like, so you can eat where they like to eat. (Because we all know the people in the kitchen know the best places to chow down.)
17. Visit a local vineyard (or wine bar).
This year, get adventurous with your drinks! Many U.S. cities aren’t as far from local vineyards as you’d think, so do a quick Google search to see if there’s something interesting (and unexpected) nearby. If you’re not near a vineyard, find a local, dedicated wine bar (BarFinder.com is helpful here) with an interesting list and try something you’ve never heard of, or ask the sommelier to recommend a bottle. We vote red — it is Valentine’s day after all.
18. Hire a personal chef.
This doesn’t have to be a fancy affair, don’t worry. If you’re in NYC, Boston, or Berlin, take a look at Kitchen Surfing, where a wide variety of chefs offer up their cooking skills to create the perfect meal for you, in your own home.
19. Treat yourselves to an aphrodisiac dinner.
We’ll be honest: Most supposed aphrodisiacs don’t have scientific evidence backing up their perceived ability to heighten sexual desire Natural aphrodisiacs. Shamloul, R. Queen’s University-Pharmacology, Kingston, Ontario, Canada. The Journal of Sexual Medicine, 2010 Jan;7(1 Pt 1):39-49.. However, certain food items do have some ties to sex: Oysters are high in zinc, which studies suggest boost testosterone levels and improve sex drive, while certain spices (including ginseng, saffron, nutmeg, cloves, and ginger) have been tied to improved sexual function and potency (Though it’s worth noting all these studies have been performed on mice, not humans.) Zinc status and serum testosterone levels of healthy adults. Prasad, A.S. Mantzoros, C.S., Beck, F.W., et al. Department of Internal Medicine, Wayne State University School of Medicine, Detroit, Michigan. Nutrition, 1996 May;12(5):344-8. An experimental study of sexual function improving effect of Myristica fragrans Houtt. (nutmeg). Tajuddin, A., Latif, A, Qasmi, I.A., et al. Department of Ilmul Advia, Faculty of Unani Medicine, Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh, India. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2005 Jul 20;5:16. Mango ginger (Curcuma amada Roxb.)–a promising spice for phytochemicals and biological activities. Policegoudra, R.S., Aradhya, S.M., Singh, L. Department of Biotechnology, Defence Research Laboratory, Tezpur, India. Journal of Biosciences, 2011 Sep;36(4):739-48.. What about the classic combination of red wine and chocolate? Even though science hasn’t tied red wine or cocoa to boosting libido, studies do suggest a little vino could make a partner seem more attractive, while nibbling on chocolate could set the mood by creating a sensual ambiance Automatic effects of alcohol cues on sexual attraction. Friedman, R.S., McCarthy, D.M., Forster, J., et al. Department of Psychological Sciences, University of Missouri-Columbia, MO. Addiction, 2005 May;100(5):672-81. Everyday mood and emotions after eating a chocolate bar or an apple. Macht, M. Dettmer, D. Department of Psychology, University of Würzburg, Marcusstr. Würzburg, Germany. Appetite, 2006 May;46(3):332-6..
20. Volunteer together.
Aside from giving others some Valentine cheer, volunteering has some health and happiness benefits, too! One study found those who create valuable relationships through volunteering had a decreased risk of mortality. Another study found it may reduce depression and anxiety Volunteering and depression: the role of psychological and social resources in different age groups. Musick, M.A, Wilson, J. The University of Texas at Austin, Population Research Center, Austin, TX. Social Science & Medicine, 2003 Jan;56(2):259-69.. Head to a soup kitchen so you can both help others celebrate V-Day with a festive meal.
Want to give a little more? Choose a gift that gives back. If you’re looking for a little gift to go along with that home-cooked dinner, go for something that gives a little something to someone less fortunate, too. A pair of TOMS shoes for your date will get a pair for a child in need, too, and a box of Two Degrees nutrition bars can help feed a malnourished child. Need to find something else? Mosey on over to Shop With Meaning to browse by item or cause.
How will you be celebrating Valentine’s Day this year? Share with us in the comments below or tweet the author @ksmorin!