Social or Fitness Decision?

Should you workout alone?

What if working out alone is not only a social decision, but also a fitness decision?  Most people choose to workout alone because they don’t have a workout partner, or there isn’t enough equipment for multiple exercisers, or other similar reasons for solitude.

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However, having a person to exercise with can actually boost your performance.  The best part is, a buddy can be almost anybody.  The important part is having someone to keep you accountable.

Personally, my schedule is so hectic I tend to squeeze my workouts in when I can, without regard to who may be available to run or lift with me.  However, on those occasions when my workout buddy is available, I much prefer the company.  I love the accountability and motivation I can’t get when I workout alone.

Accountability

Dr. Geithner suggests that building a social support network is a great way to build accountability.  If someone is counting on you, it is a lot harder to substitute eating out for working out.

Working out alone can help build confidence and initiate a habit, but working out with a partner is a great long-term motivator.  You can push each other to consistency, share in each other’s accomplishments and encourage one another during the hardest parts of the workout.

While the sweat is pouring and the muscles are aching, a partner can remind you of the big picture goals that are pushing your accomplishments.

Hire a Trainer

A little short on fitness friends?  No worries, hiring a trainer can help you avoid working out alone.  In one study, women were tested on resistance training exercises under two conditions: with a personal trainer and without.  The study showed women who hired a trainer worked harder!

The most interesting part is, the trainers just supervised, they didn’t actually prescribe any intensities!  Just because another person was present, the women self-selected higher intensities!  In the trainer supervised group, the maximum strength measures were higher, submaximal 10 rep sets were heavier, and the women reported working harder during the workout.

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Furry Friends

Working out with a friend may be easier than you thought!  Consider friends of the canine variety for boosting your exercise habits.  A Purdue University review found that most dog owners tend to walk their dogs enough to get the weekly recommendations for physical activity.

Another article in the New York Times reported similar findings from several other studies. 

These studies reported higher amounts of weekly walking for dog owners compared to people without a dog.  Furthermore, fitness levels also improved for dog walkers; they started walking faster over time as a result of consistently working out with a pet partner.

Interestingly, owning (and walking) a dog is not only general fitness advice, but also healthy.  The American Heart Association took the time to compile and release a scientific statement commenting on the various cardiometabolic health benefits derived from pet owners who regularly exercise with their animals.

The Kӧhler Effect

While you may not be able to immediately define this social phenomenon, I am quite certain you have experienced it in your life.  The Kӧhler Effect is the increased motivation and subsequent performance benefit that comes from doing anything in a group setting, where other group members are better at a particular task.

If your workout partner is faster than you, you will be motivated to run faster than you would alone.  If your partner is stronger than you, you will tend to lift more weight during your session.  The cool thing about the Kӧhler Effect is that a virtual partner tends to work just as well as a workout buddy who is sweating in the same room.

Don’t workout alone!

Get a workout buddy!  Whether virtual or physical, pet or person, paid or personal, a workout partner can help motivate you to higher levels of accountability, which leads to better workouts and better exercise compliance.

If you want to get in shape, or stay healthy, you don’t have to go at it alone!  The benefits of a buddy are far reaching.  Most importantly, find someone who wants to reach his or her fitness goals at least as much as you do.  Then get ready to be challenged!

Read more from WatchFit Expert Justin Kilian

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