Not only is having one more fun, but an exercise partner can make you more accountable, motivated, and even fast-track your fitness goals
If you could only do two things to improve your health, we’d suggest exercising and hanging out with friends. The former is self-explanatory, but the latter may be even more important than you’d think: Loneliness is as harmful to your well-being as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, according to a new study in Perspectives on Psychological Science.
So we say, why not combine the two: exercise with your friends. Besides killing two birds with one stone, you’ll be reaping a whole host of benefits—like the eight below.
In a study of 117 adults, those who worked out with friends (or a spouse or co-worker) said they enjoyed the exercise more than those who got sweaty solo, say researchers from the University of Southern California. Makes sense: you like hanging out with your friends, you (mostly) like exercising—combine the two and you double your fun.
The gym mirror can only tell you so much. When you have a friend with you, she’ll be able to give you quick form checks and tell you when your back is sagging during your plank or if you’re leaning forward too much while squatting. And that can save you lots of pain later on. (Be especially careful when doing these five exercises.)
People who exercised on a stationary bicycle for 30 minutes with a friend said they felt calmer after the workout than those who cycled alone, according to a study published in the International Journal of Stress Management. Duos didn’t necessarily have to chat during the workout to feel the stress-busting effects, so bring a friend along to SoulCycle, even if you know you’ll be pushing yourself too hard to utter a word. (For even more relaxation, share a Glass of Red Wine post-workout.)
Worried that your exercise buddy is fitter than you? Good. People with exercised with someone they thought was better than them worked out up to 200 percent harder and longer than others, found researchers from Kansas State University. That’s because you’re naturally competitive—when you’re with a fit friend, you find it easier to really push yourself to keep up. (Although, there is such a thing as being Too Competitive at the Gym.)
When you’re just dragging yourself to the gym in the morning or after work, it’s easy to talk yourself out of it—less so when you know you’ll be meeting a friend there. The same is true for slacking off during your workouts: You’re not going to stop for so many “water” (read: Facebook and Instagram) breaks when you’ve got a friend there to call you out. (For more incentive to keep going, try these 2-Second Motivation Boosters.)
This goes along with the two previous points: when you’re being consistent and pushing yourself harder, your performance will improve faster than when you’re only attending the gym sporadically and slacking off when you do manage to get there.
This one’s only true if your workout partner is also your life partner. The physical symptoms you experience after working out—flushed skin, faster heart rate, adrenaline rush—actually mimic the effects of arousal. That might help explain why studies show that men and women feel more attracted to each other after doing an adrenaline-pumping activity (like exercising together). (This Kegel-Free Workout Routine will also boost your sex life.)
When you work out alone, it’s all too easy to fall back on the same-old, same-old exercises. But that’s an easy way to fall into a fitness plateau. A friend might have suggestions for switching up your routine that you wouldn’t think of alone, and that will keep things interesting and ensure all your muscle get worked out. (Here are 20 Ways to Bust Out of Your Workout Rut.)