With busy schedules, family responsibilities, and work, finding the time and motivation to work out can be difficult. If you’re a solo exerciser, skipping the gym can be tempting when time is short. However, if you can find a partner or join a group with designated workouts and established meeting times, you’ll see how sticking to a routine becomes much easier.
How does this phenomenon work? Exercise partners hold you accountable, provide an opportunity to socialize, and can push you toward your fitness goals. Recent research from the Society of Behavioral Medicine found that working out with a partner can lead to fitness gains over repeated sessions. The study applied a behavioral principle called the Köhler Effect, which states that an individual works harder when part of a group, rather than alone. Participants in the study exercised on a stationary bike at a specific intensity level either by themselves or with a virtual partner performing the same workout. As it turned out, the individuals who exercised with “partners” biked longer and harder than the individuals who were solo.
What should you look for in an exercise partner? Your best match is someone with a similar fitness level, exercise goals, and interests. (A CrossFitter might be a tough match for a long distance runner!) Additionally, working out with a partner is the perfect opportunity to share ideas, such as a great core workout you saw online or the new running shoes that you love. Mixing up your routine can prevent overuse injuries, quell boredom, and will challenge your muscles in new ways.
Similarly, group exercise offers endless opportunities to get your heart pumping. Today, it’s easy to find a gym that specializes in one specific class, such as spin or barre, or one that offers a multitude of classes, such as a YMCA. And because they’re usually offered throughout the day, it’s fairly easy to find a class that fits into your schedule, whether it’s early morning yoga or late-evening kickboxing.
An article from the College of Sports Medicine found that group exercise is a “safe and effectively designed workout…that requires no prior exercise knowledge or experience.” Signing up for a class is a great place to start if you’re new to exercise.
Many larger cities offer walking, running, and cycling groups that meet several times during the week. It’s the perfect chance to spend time outside and form new relationships, all while getting in a solid workout. Many of these groups also offer training plans to help you prepare for upcoming races, such as marathons or triathlons. Simply feeling like you’re part of a team can provide the inspiration you need to achieve your fitness goals.
Whether you work out with a friend, join a group, or sign up for a class, all maximize both the psychological and physical benefits of exercise. Needless to say, on some days you may find that hitting the gym alone fits best into your schedule. An occasional solo workout is a great time to rock out to your favorite playlist or try a workout that you might not get to do in a group setting. No matter how you work out, the greater goal is making consistent exercise a habit for life.