Exercising on a regular basis can improve your mood, performance, physical appearance, and confidence, but sticking to a workout program can be tough. It’s easy to blow off hitting the gym or going for a jog around the neighborhood when the only person you’re accountable to is yourself. Rather than flying solo, research reveals that having a workout partner, or simply making your workouts more social, can be the key to staying true to your fitness goals. Social support is not only a motivator, but it’s also beneficial for these three reasons:
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You’re more likely to shed those pounds for good. Researchers have found that women who embark on a weight loss program together are more likely to lose the weight and keep it off. A study published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology found that when participants committed to a weight loss program alone, 76 percent completed the behavioral change, but only 24 percent kept the weight off. However, when they committed to a weight loss program with a friend, 95 percent of the participants achieved their goal, and 66 percent maintained their weight loss. How can you make this work for you? Join a gym, a specific fitness class (like Zumba or Pilates), or an after-work sport with a friend and make it social. Try replacing Sunday morning coffee and brunch with a bootcamp class and then rewarding yourselves with brunch.
It’s a stress-reducer. A study published in the International Journal of Stress Management focused on the stress-reducing effects of social versus solo exercise. Researchers examined the different emotional impact of group versus individual exercise by having participants ride a stationary bike and breaking them into three groups: Group A rode alone, Group B rode with a partner in silence, and Group C rode with a partner while talking. After the ride, participants completed specific surveys to measure stress and energy levels. The results revealed the working out as a team seemed to create a greater release of endorphins, both lowering stress and boosting the post-workout ‘high’. The participants also felt more tired, which suggests that working out with someone creates a more competitive environment and results in a more challenging workout. How can you make this work for you? Try Meetup.com to find your perfect workout match. You can also get involved in a team sport with your work or join a local sports league. Zogsports.com offers some great team sports, like softball and kickball, that anyone can get involved with.
You’ll perform better. A study done at Michigan State University used a plank to measure participants’ solo performance versus exercising with a virtual partner. People were first asked to hold a plank for as long as they could on their own. Then they repeated the same exercise with a virtual workout partner of superior ability. When working out with a virtual partner, participants held the plank 24 percent longer than what they did on their own. How can you make this work for you? Get a virtual workout partner to motivate you and spark your competitive side.When you’re working to a fuller capacity it means that you’ll achieve greater results—and those who see better results are more likely to keep training. Try investing in a few good workout DVDs. Workout videos can be a great tool, especially for days when you’re having a hard time getting your butt to the gym. Video games like Wii Fit can also help you on your personal fitness journey.
Jennifer Lutz is a certified personal trainer and yoga instructor. She trains private clients around New York City and at Equinox Fitness. It’s her goal to help women live healthier, happier lives.