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What Type of Fitness Buddy Is Right for You?

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What Type of Fitness Buddy Is Right for You?

By Gina DeMillo Wagner, Experience Life

If there were a way to double your chances for fitness success, would you be interested? How about a technique to make exercise more fun? A tool that automatically creates space and time in your busy schedule for workouts? A proven way to help you out of a rut or through a plateau?

It may all sound too good to be true, but countless fitness seekers have found that the right workout buddy can do all that and more.

“In my 10 years of experience evaluating what creates long-term health-and-fitness success, the single most important factor is having a support system,” says Wayne Andersen, MD, cofounder and medical director of Take Shape for Life, a nationwide health and lifestyle coaching program based in Owings Mills, Md.

Exercise partners provide a powerful combination of support, accountability, motivation and, in some cases, healthy competition. “They can play the role of teammate, co-coach and cheerleader — all while working out,” says Michelle P. Maidenberg, PhD, MPH, clinical director of Westchester Group Works in Harrison, N.Y.

Maidenberg, who consults on wellness-coaching strategies, says finding the right workout partner (someone you care about and click with) dramatically increases your chances of success. “A buddy can motivate you to do one more set, continue when you feel like you have just had enough and want to give up, or when you are feeling hopeless.”

The need for interpersonal support is primal, says Andersen. “We are social animals. We seek the company and positive reinforcement of others, especially when we are doing work.”

A 2011 study published in Psychology of Sport and Exercise found that the exercise habits of people you know have a positive influence on your exercise habits.

Another study, from the Department of Kinesiology at Indiana University, surveyed married couples who joined health clubs together and found that couples who worked out separately had a 43 percent dropout rate over the course of a year. Those who went to the gym together, regardless of whether they focused on the same type of exercise, had only a 6.3 percent dropout rate.

Ready to partner up? Great! But before you recruit the first warm body you see, keep in mind that not all workout buddies are created equal.

“If you choose someone who does not share a similar commitment to fitness, that can be a distraction or even a deterrent,” Andersen says. “And if your partner is at a radically different level of health, fitness or ability, you could be held back, pushed too hard or even injured.”

Another key factor: Emotional connection. Your workout pal doesn’t have to be your best friend, but he or she has to be someone you like and whom you wouldn’t want to disappoint, Maidenberg says. “Psychologically, if you feel like you have a responsibility and commitment toward another person, you are more likely to follow through on that commitment.”

The most successful fitness partnerships fall into one of three categories: the pal-based buddy system, the small group and the coupled pair. Take a look at them all, then consider which collaborative arrangement (or arrangements) might work best for you.

Number One: fitness pals

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Molly, selected from Experience Life

Experience Life magazine is an award-winning health and fitness publication that aims to empower people to live their best, most authentic lives, and challenges the conventions of hype, gimmicks and superficiality in favor of a discerning, whole-person perspective. Visit experiencelife.com to learn more and to sign up for the Experience Life newsletter, or to subscribe to the print or digital version.

17 comments

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5:04AM PST on Jan 24, 2013

good information! i've always worked out alone, or been in a class of people for a specific class in the gym. it's what works best for you and i suppose you have to give different ways a try and work on them a few times to see if it's right for you. i like my music so that spurs me on, but i'm relatively happy working alongside someone as well

12:30PM PDT on Jul 10, 2012

ty

7:09AM PDT on Jul 9, 2012

Thanks!

10:00PM PDT on Jul 3, 2012

One who isnt doing this to shut their mom up :/
If I'm willing to work extra hard and diet and whatnot because I'm trying to become a healthier person, then my "buddy" should have the same committed mentality, other wise, we wont be helping one another whatsoever!

10:28PM PDT on Jul 2, 2012

Thx

12:51PM PDT on Jul 1, 2012

ty

10:01AM PDT on Jul 1, 2012

nice idea.

9:07AM PDT on Jul 1, 2012

thx for the info!

9:07AM PDT on Jul 1, 2012

thx for the info!

9:07AM PDT on Jul 1, 2012

thx for the info!

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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