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4 Good Reasons You Should Pair Up to Work Out

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By: , SparkPeople Blogger
2/25/2011 6:00 AM   :  48 comments   :  13,190 Views

According to a recent dailySpark poll, 75% of you do not work out with a buddy. I'm more of a solo exerciser myself, but sometimes—especially when I need a little entertainment or motivation—I like working out with a friend. I don't strongly take one side or the other on this issue. I think different things work for different people. But some new research is showing that pairing up to work out might have more benefits than you realized…

In 2007, a small University of Virginia study of 34 students yielded some interesting results about friends and physical challenges. Participants stood at the base of a hill wearing a weighted backpack. Some of them were all alone. Others were paired up with a friend. Researchers then asked them to estimate how steep the hill in front of them really was. The students who stood with a friend estimated that the hill was less steep than students who stood alone did. And the longer the friends had known each other, the less steep the hill appeared to them.

We could easily apply these findings to a wide range of workouts. Simply being with a friend can make the physical challenge of exercise seem less daunting to you—especially if you're doing it with one of your best friends. This actually makes me think back to my Grand Canyon hiking trip last year. Surprisingly, I never viewed the multi-day excursion (also with weighted packs!) as very challenging, despite the grand scale of the trails we climbed. Could that be because I took the journey with my very best friend of almost 7 years?

Besides making exercise seem easier, here are three more reasons to try working out with a buddy—at least occasionally.
  1. Working out with a buddy makes exercise more fun. As long as you're a somewhat social person, I think this is true. Whether it brings out an inner competitiveness that helps you work harder and pass the time, or helps you maintain a lighthearted attitude about Zumba class (at least you two will feel like fools together), exercising with a friend can help freshen up your routine when you're feeling bored.
     
  2. Working out with a buddy lets you multitask. My aforementioned best friend and I both exercise regularly, although usually not together. Often, when we're craving friend time and need to catch up, we do so by working out together: running, walking or hiking. We also tend to do this when one of us needs to vent, so talk about multitasking: spending time with friends, getting things off your chest, reducing stress (via that connection and the exercise), and meeting our fitness goals. That sounds like a win-win-win-win to me! Bonus: Being able to carry on a choppy conversation is a good indicator that you're working at the right intensity level!
     
  3. Working out with a buddy provides accountability. While I don't think it's wise to always rely on someone else to stay motivated yourself, it can work in a pinch. I tend to be motivated to work out most days. But when I'm not, I'll call up a friend. Then my workout is more like an appointment that I have to keep because I don't want to cancel or let the other person down. This is a great technique to try on occasion, but I also think it's important to make a habit of finding ways to stay motivated on your own—without always needing to rely on someone else.
If you're interested in getting more support for your fitness goals, check out this great article from the American Council on Exercise (ACE). It outlines 10 ways to get support for your workouts, plus more ways you can get support without actually having (or relying on) a fitness buddy.

Do you think that exercising with a friend can make your workouts seem easier—or more fun?

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Comments

  • TJ_HUNTER77
    48
    I prefer to workout with a partner when I can. It gets my adrenaline pumping and allows me to excerise longer because I don't get bored and more intensely, as well because I feel a sense of competion. - 3/25/2011   11:43:55 AM
  • 47
    I like the idea of working out with someone else, but most of the time it just isn't a practical option for me. So while I sometimes get to do something active (like tennis, for example) with a friend, I don't count on it for my regular work outs.

    The one time I went to the gym with friends, I didn't notice any real difference as we didn't really interact at the gym--in fact the pacing of our workouts didn't really mesh very well as some of us were done way earlier than others. But I do try, when I can, to have social activities--things like sledding or biking or playing tennis or whatever with friends. It keeps physical activity fun, not just something I *have* to do. - 3/4/2011   3:40:24 AM
  • WINEDINETRAVEL
    46
    I'm a solitary exerciser so that I can workout at times that are convenient for me. I do very much enjoy the occasional walk with a good friend! - 3/2/2011   9:27:13 AM
  • 45
    I take a swim class with friends, and I ride my outdoor bike with my husband. I used to like to exercise alone, but now enjoy being in a group. - 3/1/2011   5:27:21 PM
  • 44
    I walk with a friend, and my dog! She keeps me motivated, and on the road, and the dog keeps the pace brisk! - 2/28/2011   3:04:02 AM
  • 43
    I would like to have someone to workout with, make it more fun and more accountable. I don't have anyone to workout with. My one dog is older and walks slow and the other one is a puppy and walking with her is spent training her. - 2/27/2011   11:17:10 PM
  • 42
    i prefer exercising by myself except for bike riding or walking-- then i prefer a friend - 2/27/2011   9:29:57 PM
  • 41
    I would love to have someone to exercise with. My
    husband walks to slow so I would rather walk alone with my dog. - 2/27/2011   3:13:09 PM
  • BECKY425
    40
    I started working out with my husband. We both need to become healthier, but I would get out of routine when I worked out alone. I would come home from work and see him "relaxing" and watching tv. I wanted to do that too, so I ended up falling off the wagon. Now that we both workout together, we both push each other especially when the other one does not feel like working out. - 2/27/2011   12:34:27 AM
  • 39
    I like to work out on my own or with my canine companions. I've tried getting others to join me on walks but they make excuses. Just tired of the procrastination of others. - 2/26/2011   11:45:07 PM
  • 38
    I like to do mine on my own. - 2/26/2011   8:39:31 PM
  • 37
    Last summer two acquaintances and I started walking once a week. We have walked every week, but Christmas week and one week in January when both of them were ill. I really missed walking with them when they were both unable to participate. While I wouldn't call us BFF, we are good friends now and really look forward to our weekly get together.
    - 2/26/2011   7:46:59 PM
  • 36
    Outdoor exercise (hiking, biking, skiing ...) is more fun with my husband or a friend. Indoor exercise (treadmill, strength training...) seems to be more solo for me. - 2/26/2011   6:49:43 PM
  • PATTERSONNNN
    35
    I workout with my wife and I find it really motivating and fun - 2/26/2011   5:26:42 PM
  • STARZATNITE
    34
    I've never quite understood why anyone would WANT to work out with someone else.

    There are three main reasons I'd prefer to go it alone:

    1. I sweat a lot. It's not pretty. Why would I want to share that?

    2. The other person always wants to talk. I can't exercise and talk at the same time. I also can't walk and chew gum at the same time; it's a coordination problem.

    3. Who exercises at the same pace? I want to get the most out of my session, and I certainly don't want to slow anyone else down.

    The only time I can recall wanting someone to work out with is at the gym when a svelt 20 year old in a svelt Nike sports bra decided to occupy the treadmill directly in front of me (and between two equally svelt 20 year old guys.) At least then I would have had someone to roll my eyes with. - 2/26/2011   4:07:39 PM
  • 33
    The good thing about a workout partner is the extra motivation to get started for each exercise session. The bad thing is when your partner is away or injured and can't make it.
    Definitely need an alternative solo exercise plan! - 2/26/2011   12:55:40 PM
  • 32
    It depends on the activity and if I have friends who go at the same pace: I don't want to slow anyone else down! But I LOVE having the accountability of my marathon training group, because I know I wouldn't run nearly as much if I didn't have a set time and place to do it and people who would notice that I wasn't there. Sometimes it's great to just have someone to meet somewhere (gym or otherwise), even if you both then go off to do your own workouts. - 2/26/2011   12:12:35 PM
  • 31
    I would love to have an occasional work-out buddy. But unfortunately, it's "not in the cards" here and now.

    And unless I don't know how to count, Nicole, you either need to change the headline of the article or add a fourth reason.

    Thanks as always for the excellent information and all you do! It's called "real good karma" to be able to earn a living doing what you love AND helping others!!!

    Maha - 2/26/2011   12:09:59 PM
  • 30
    I believe working out with someone else would be more fun. I don't know if i would get as good of a workout with someone else. My husband will sometimes go for walks with me when i ask him, but he's always telling me to slow down its not a race. So as much as i'd like a workout buddy i do enjoy working out at my own speed. - 2/26/2011   9:42:26 AM
  • JHATCHETT1
    29
    I love working out with my best friend. We usually go for a brisk, hour long walk, as many days of the week as we can. It helps me to stay motivated. I can't wait to go! We laugh and talk and try to pick up speed as we go. These walks aren't the only workouts I get each week, but they are the ones that I look forward to! - 2/26/2011   2:22:10 AM
  • 28
    I can see where it would be fun but I am a definite loner when I'm working out. I don't even run with my husband nor do I like to have him in the gym when I'm strength training. He likes to ogle me and it's distracting... LOL! - 2/25/2011   11:29:13 PM
  • 27
    I definitely prefer working alone so I can set my own pace and intensity. I usually take my 12 year-old Sheltie with me on my walks. It is good for both of us and I can walk at my own pace and he usually is able to stay up with me. We have just started again being more consistent with our walks so he has trouble making it as far as I can (he is 12 after all), so I have left him home a few times to go further since I started training for a virtual 5K. But those walks aren't the same. He may not be able to make a 5K with me, but I have started trying to lengthen our walks some and when the weather warms up will try to walk five or six times a week. Right now we are consistently doing about four times a week just because of the weather and family commitments I have. Also, since I live with my dad and help him out, walking is one of the few times during the day that I have time to myself. I do agree that certain exercises, like biking or hiking is definitely better when done with someone. - 2/25/2011   11:26:40 PM
  • 26
    I exercise alone most of the time, both because I am an independent person and because my health issues make me very slow, frustrating for others who must keep even with my crawling pace. But recently I have been visiting the gym at our local clinic with my husband occasionally. I am no gym rat, prefer out of doors, and so does he, but Brr! it is cold, and icy too, around here right now. I do the elliptical trainer while he walks the treadmill. We hope to do an outdoor 5k walk together in less than 3 weeks. We are both so competitive neither will quit while the other is still working. He does a 40 min. stint on the tread mill, but I cannot last that long on the elliptical, so I divide my session into two 10 minute or so sessions and in between use the hand weights for a much more complete workout than I would do home alone. I think he is walking more also. win-win. - 2/25/2011   11:21:05 PM
  • 25
    having a buddy has always been key for me. I am a social being and part of my fun is catching up and getting fit. Knowing my friends are getting healthy and I am healthy is a great feeling...why should i ever lose it! - 2/25/2011   10:14:06 PM
  • 24
    I use to have a walking partner were we use to live. I miss having a friend to work out with. Now I depend on my son to support me. He calls out the exercises and counts them out for me. It helps a great deal to have a buddy. Encouragement works wonders on a persons self esteem. - 2/25/2011   8:26:13 PM
  • 23
    it's hard to find someone consistant. - 2/25/2011   5:23:01 PM
  • COLLOMR
    22
    I don't mind working out alone and do so about 1/3 of the time. However, I have found that with buddies depending on me, I am more accountable and more consistent. There have been days I wanted to skip my workouts, but knew my friends were depending on me, so I went. Also longer hikes, bike rides, skiing, running are more fun (and possibly more safe) with more people. Especially road biking - you can be a team and draft off each other and encourage each other. - 2/25/2011   4:12:00 PM
  • SHISMAMA
    21
    I tend to like both. It is easier and seems faster time wise when I'm with a friend. It's over before u know it. But I like to do my most strenuous excercising solo. - 2/25/2011   2:59:38 PM
  • 20
    I think exercising with a friend makes my workouts a lot easier and fun! I really like to do it when I can. Unfortunately like lots of other people have stated time, intensity, etc sometimes get in the way. I love going for walks with people but I cannot really walk fast so sometimes for the other person it is more about social time than exercising. And I understand why that would mean they don't always want to walk with me. One thing that is good for that is going to the Gym and working out on machines (treadmill, ellipitcal, etc) side by side. Then you can be together, still talk but each of you can go at your own pace. - 2/25/2011   2:18:32 PM
  • 19
    I started out my weight loss program with a buddy. My daughter and I both workout everyday and watch our nutrition together. There are days when I don't feel like going .... you know, slacking off .... and she reminds me why we're doing this. Once I get to the gym I am find.

    So having a sparkbuddy in my own home is twice the fun. - 2/25/2011   2:02:30 PM
  • 18
    I do not like working out with anyone. I need to go at my own pace and I am motivated by my music. I do not even like my husband to be at the gym at the same time, because he is always coming to talk to me. That said, if you are hiking or maybe biking along a trail, I do think it is safer to be with another person. - 2/25/2011   1:13:35 PM
  • 17
    I think it works if you are at the same fitness level. But I prefer working out solo specifically because I like going at my own pace. Not struggling to catch up with someone, or barely getting a workout at all with someone else. - 2/25/2011   11:36:08 AM
  • JENKINS111
    16
    I work out almost every day with my friend. We work in the same building and put time on our work calendar like any other meeting. This has helped tremendously in keeping our commitment to ourselves and each other. We do vent and catch up and it helps relieve stress. I will admit it is harder to keep the workout when one of us doesn't come in, but that is the exception. I love it. - 2/25/2011   11:20:05 AM
  • 15
    Most of the time I exercise by myself, but just recently my husband started doing some exercises. It is nice to have the partner while exercising! - 2/25/2011   10:41:21 AM
  • 14
    Sometimes I like to work out with a buddy while lifting, but they have to be experiencd and lifting something near what I can - changing plates takes time where neither of us is lifting! But I recently asked one of the trainers at my gym for a spot on the bench press and each of my reps was with better form and I felt the after effects far more. That was because I had someone to support me and I could afford to drop the weight lower and lift it slower because I never had to fear that I would crush my chest with it! - 2/25/2011   10:27:18 AM
  • 13
    I can go either way. I sometimes like working out by myself with an iPod and "zoning out". I tried doing the Couch-to-5K plan with my best friend last year. We had a good time and it was enjoyable to talk and spend time together, but we were at different fitness levels. Then she started bailing on me, so it didn't work out. I am now running with my husband, and it's working out much better. He keeps me accountable, and pushes me to run longer. We're at very different fitness levels, but it's fine. I let him run ahead of me and we catch to each other when we walk after our run. - 2/25/2011   10:25:09 AM
  • 12
    I love to work out with friends it makes the workout easier to me. I can work out longer and harder without even realizing it a lot of times my friends help push me or I help push them along. I also am one of those people that hates trying classes alone, I feel like everyone else but me know each other, but with having a friend we can be fools together : ) I do workout by myself a lot though when I do I normally take a book while I do the eliptical I do more of a workout because I am not paying attention to time or to how fast or hard I am working out till I'm done. - 2/25/2011   10:20:42 AM
  • PARISTASAI
    11
    I love this! "The students who stood with a friend estimated that the hill was less steep than students who stood alone did. And the longer the friends had known each other, the less steep the hill appeared to them." - 2/25/2011   10:06:07 AM
  • 10
    Working out with a friend does really make the exercise more fun and I've found that sometimes we'll exercise longer when I'm working out WITH someone that I would just on my own. :) - 2/25/2011   9:34:20 AM
  • JAPPYMDNP
    9
    Its hard to find a buddy that is as committed. I exercise when I have time, and trying to coordinate that time with other people's schedules would be difficult. In theory its a great idea to work on goals with a buddy, its just not a practical idea for me. - 2/25/2011   9:30:37 AM
  • 8
    Yes! I do feel that working out with a partner is a great motivator. I am a solo exerciser, but have occasionally taking classes with friends and noticed that it does indeed bring out my inner-competitive nature. Not so much the "in your face" type of competition, but more pushing myself to keep up with them and exceed my own expectations. Recently started working out with a SparkBuddy. We text each other in the morning as soon as we are starting our workout for the day. It helps me to roll out of bed knowing that someone is waiting on a text from me. It has movtivated me so well, in fact, this week is the first week in a month that I have managed to not skip on single morning! Yea! - 2/25/2011   9:28:07 AM
  • 7
    I like to mix it up. Sometime do solo workouts, especially when I concentrating on a certain goal (like getting down to a 16 minute mile - slowly but surely!) and I really like dance because while you are with a group of people trying to get the same moves, it's on you to work out what your body needs to do to get there but there's still the built-in encouragement and help (when you can't remember the steps like me!). I also like the quite time, just listening to my music and thinking things through when I walk the trail. But I love doing the 10k training with a great friend - which is a wonderful mix of all of this - we often do our own thing during the "official training" and then afterwards walk (or shop - lol) some more and spend time talking. But I do agree, for me at least, it's important that I'm able to motivate myself - having a buddy along is just a bonus. - 2/25/2011   8:34:41 AM
  • CRYSTALLULLABY
    6
    I was thinking about this yesterday. I've noticed that I push myself more and train harder when I'm by myself. Also as DAWN.BELIEVES, says it gives me my alone time to just focus on me and get the cobwebs out of my head. I like working out with a friend but my best exercise time is when it is just me. - 2/25/2011   8:30:11 AM
  • 5
    I like working out with a friend, but it's hard to find someone with the same schedule who likes the same type of exercise at a similar level of intensity. I don't mind working out alone, though, so it's all good! - 2/25/2011   8:26:27 AM
  • 4
    I have become so dependent on myself that I have never really wanted a work out buddy. I have always seen them as unmotivated, and though I can motivate them, it can cause me to become less motivated. Now that all by myself my motivation is lacking. I think this is because I can tell I am somewhat satisfied with my body, I feel like I need someone who's motivated to give me a good kick in the butt. I just have 15 pounds left out of 117, I can't stop now. I think when my sister gets off work this evening I will see if she wants to go running. Hopefully this will help. - 2/25/2011   8:14:26 AM
  • 3
    I would not be where I am without my sister's help. She's the best walking and hiking buddy in the world! After I had a mild heart attack last January, and being obese, I could barely walk around the block. She would walk those few feet with me. By Fall, we had climbed a mountain together. My cardiologist couldn't believe my treadmill test results - he said, "Whatever you're doing, keep doing it!" (I started slowly, and took every step with my doctor's approval.)

    I walk farther and hike longer when I'm with my sister. But, when the weather isn't good, or she's not available, I exercise alone with a DVD, or take a walk with my iPod. Except for walking or hiking, I prefer to exercise alone.

    I thank God for my hiking buddy! - 2/25/2011   7:25:04 AM
  • DAWN.BELIEVES
    2
    I think that sometimes working out with a friend can be fun but I actually enjoy working out alone better. It gives me time to pray and meditate. It is actually the only me time I really get in my day and I NEED my me time :) - 2/25/2011   7:14:24 AM
  • 1
    Sure I believe it, but aas a regular thing, it would make me to tied to a clock.
    You would have to have a certain time to do something without wavering by 5 or 10 minutes. - 2/25/2011   6:57:27 AM

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