10 Health-Conscious Date Ideas

Worried that buckets of movie popcorn, lattes and dinners out will pack on the pounds while you're looking for love? Trade those calorie-laden dates for these stay-fit activities for two instead.

By Jennifer Nelson

s non-stop dating contributing negatively to your health? Downing too many fat-laden restaurant dinners, ice cream cones and smoothies, or buckets of popcorn at the movie theater can do that, but it doesn't have to be that way. There are plenty of healthier date options, so save more traditional food-centric dates for special occasions and up your healthy date ante. Here are 10 ideas to get you started:

1. Learn how to juggle.
"We all know that laughter is important in a romantic relationship," says Heather Wolf, an ACE certified personal trainer and founder and CEO of JuggleFit LLC in Gulf Breeze, FL. If you're newly dating and
This kind of edginess makes the interaction exciting.
still need ways to break the ice, taking a juggling class together will not only elicit smiles and laughter, it'll break down any walls by bringing the two of you to a level playing field where you're both dropping balls and working things out. When a couple learns to juggle together, it helps them not take life too seriously.

2. Visit a vineyard.
"To make your date especially healthy, find out if the site offers walking tours of the vineyard," says Katie Heddleston, a Cleveland-based registered dietitian. Then, sample red wines. Reds have been shown to protect your heart against disease due to resveratrol and other antioxidants. But don't over-imbibe: dietary guidelines for Americans state that drinking in moderation for women equals one drink per day, while men may enjoy two drinks. "Remember, the spit cup is there for a reason," cautions Heddleston.

3. Play a competitive sport.
Tennis, racquetball, or bowling can make for a high-spirited activity date. "This kind of edginess makes the interaction exciting, stimulating and novel, which have been proven to keep the romance alive," says Debbie Mandel, author of Addicted to Stress (Wiley & Sons). It's a great way to get to know someone without any rationalizations or verbiage to hide behind. Observe your date's defense, offense and unpredictable moves while you play. Plus, the exhilaration exercise brings increases one's libido and spontaneity. If your date is a sore loser, restore harmony by betting on the outcome of the game with the winner's fantasy acted out or another steamy win/win prize.

4. Walk for a cause.
Most couples have a cause that's near and dear to their hearts. One of you may have lost a loved one to cancer or heart disease, or maybe you're both passionate about politics or animal rights. Most non-profit and political organizations sponsor athletic events to help raise money and awareness. "By deciding to participate in a cause-sponsored walk, bike ride or other athletic event with your significant other, you have the opportunity to dig deeper during your date time and bond over something you both care about," says Laura Williams, a fitness expert in Stayton, OR. Plus, this type of shared goal can help you start creating "we stories" as a couple — as in, "we help raise money for cancer."

5. Hit the farmer's market and prepare a healthy meal with your purchases.
"What's so much fun about going to a farmer's market is learning about new foods, how they are grown or produced, and getting to know the people who grew or produced them," says Rachel Begun, a registered dietitian in Rye Brook, NY. Speak to the food artisans and farmers, learn about a new produce variety, and purchase some ingredients to prepare a meal. Ask about your date's food preferences and eating style, which says a lot about someone's personality. In the kitchen, work as a team rather than using the "divide and conquer" approach. "The focus should be on working together," says Begun.

6. Volunteer to walk dogs at an animal shelter.
Though most shelter organizations require their volunteers to submit applications, attend orientations and complete training before being allowed to handle or walk their dogs, you can plan it in advance. "Doing any kind of charity work
Doing any kind of charity work together lessens the usual date pressures.
together lessens the usual date pressures by placing the focus elsewhere," says Roxanne Hawn, an author whose website,, won DogTime Media's Best Dog Blog Award in 2010. It also gives you a chance to practice teamwork, which is crucial in any lasting relationship. "The bonus of a volunteer date involving animals is that you can gauge your date's level of empathy and patience," says Hawn. This is especially important for people who love pets or who plan to have kids. Volunteering at an animal shelter can give you a real sense of whether your date truly loves animals or is merely faking it to win your affections. Plus, a few hours spent walking shelter dogs is great exercise — and good karma.

7. Take dance lessons and then go out dancing.
"Dancing is a fantastic way to burn calories, exercise the heart, gain leg, arm, abdominal strength, move the body in multiple directions and most importantly, have fun," says Monique Hollowell, CEO of Lafemme Mobile Gym in Sacramento, CA. Dancing to five songs burns about 150 calories. Latin rhythmic salsa dancing is one of the best calorie-burning options due to its repetitive foot coordination, torso/hip rotations and arm movements. "It's fantastic for partners due to the enhanced awareness you must have between each other to do the right moves," says Hollowell.

8. Join a yoga or Krav Maga class.
"Taking a class is not only a great way to get to know someone, but to truly see if you are compatible with that person," says Barbara Neitlich, a Beverly Hills psychotherapist. It challenges your relationship in a way that going out to dinner never will. Anyone can behave like prince (or princess) charming on a dinner date. However, in taking a class (such as yoga or Krav Maga) that challenges mind, body and spirit, you're evaluating whether this is someone you want to be with long-term. Classes like these allow you to see how your date does outside of his or her comfort zone and whether this person is resilient, patient and willing to take on new challenges.

9. Book a joint session with a personal trainer.
"Regular exercise can not only boost your confidence, which can help when attempting to meet your prospective partner, it can also increase your mood, which can help you keep your current partner," says Travis Steffen, exercise physiologist and founder of If you're training for something like a half-marathon, you'll not only bond as a couple during practice runs, you'll also be able to feel a sense of accomplishment when you both achieve your mutual goal. Sharing a powerful experience like this can be one of the best ways to make a deep connection with someone. What's more, working out boosts your libido!

10. Do a "danger date" for an endorphin rush.
Dates where you're taking a trapeze lesson, bungee jumping, skydiving or white-water rafting can provide a kind of super-adventurous (and slightly dangerous) good time while creating an instant bond. "Anytime the two of you do something unusual that is scary or thrilling, it creates a different kind of chemistry," says Samantha Daniels, a professional matchmaker for over 10 years. Heart-pumping, bloodcurdling fear factor dates provide a feel-good high, help you connect with your date and create instant chemistry all at once due to the endorphin rush. But be careful, says Daniels: "You still have to do your due diligence to make sure the person is right for you on other levels."

Jennifer Nelson is a Florida-based freelance writer whose work appears in Self, O - The Oprah Magazine, Redbook, Family Circle, Women's Health and many others. She also regularly writes about health, lifestyle and relationships for Parade, Glamour, and WebMD.
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