Research has shown that our motivation to exercise has a lot to do with the people we surround ourselves with. Whether they are training partners or cheerleaders on the sidelines, having a community of supporters can make a world of difference when it comes to starting an exercise plan and sticking with it.
While there are countless benefits to having workout buddies, the three most obvious are accountability, competition and enjoyment. These three components can help you attain both short and long-term goals successfully. From training for a big race to losing a few pounds, you can do almost anything with a little help from your friends.
There’s no question that you’re less likely to back out of exercise if you have a friend meeting you at the gym. Indeed, researchers at the University of Maryland found that friend support influenced exercise by helping to boost one’s confidence in the task at hand. Those days when you’d rather sleep in or head directly home after work are the times when having someone waiting for you can be just the motivation you need.
“A training partner is someone who you can share your highs and lows with who understands exactly what you’re going through and won’t be annoyed about your constant chatter on the subject,” explains Jess Underhill, a New York-based personal trainer and running coach. “Having a training partner means you’re in it together until the end—or until you reach your goal.
Even if you don’t think you’re competitive, having a training partner can help you rise to the occasion and challenge yourself in workouts. To be sure, one study done at Michigan State found that when a group of people rode exercise bikes on their own for several sessions, and then with a partner via Skype for several sessions, they ended up riding almost 200 percent longer on average when they rode with a partner. Other research has demonstrated that when runners have someone they perceive to be a “rival,” it helped motivate them to train.
“If you see that your workout partner can do something, you think, ‘If they can do it, so can I!’” adds Underhill. The best part: Some days you’ll be the motivator, and others, you’ll be the beneficiary. That’s what friends are for after all.
Studies have shown that working out with a friend often increases one’s enjoyment while exercising. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that enjoying workouts will help you stick with an exercise routine longer.
“You aren’t likely to get bored when you’re with a friend, so time goes by faster,” says Underhill. “The social component of riding with someone adds to the enjoyment of the activity by making it feel less like hard work and more like play.”
With that said, some people find that their workouts provide important alone time. Over time, however, mixing up your routine and inviting friends to join in on certain workouts can be a good way to stay on track. There’s nothing like a hard training session to bring workout buddies together.