Exercise + friends = a powerful combo. Find out why—plus where to find your perfect match.
Photo: Corbis Images
If you could only do two things to improve your health, we’d suggest exercising and spending quality time 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 study in Perspectives on Psychological Science.
So we say, why not combine the two: grab a workout buddy and sweat together. Besides killing two birds with one stone, you’ll be reaping a whole host of benefits. Here, the top eight.
1. You’ll enjoy your workout more.
In a study of 117 adults out of the University of Southern California, those who worked out with friends (or a spouse or co-worker) said they enjoyed the exercise more than those who got sweaty solo. Makes sense: you like hanging out with your friends, you (mostly) like exercising—combine the two and you double your fun.
2. You’ll be less likely to get injured.
The gym mirror can only tell you so much. When you have a workout buddy, 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. (And be sure to skip these 10 moves trainers say you should never do again.)
3. You’ll feel less stressed.
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 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 workout buddy along to spin class, even if you know you’ll be pushing yourself too hard to utter a word.
4. You’ll push yourself harder.
Worried that your exercise buddy is fitter than you? Good. People who exercised with someone they thought was better than them worked out up to 200 percent harder and longer than others, says a study performed at 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. (Related: How Workout Buddies Overcame Self-Doubt to Run Their First Half-Marathon)
5. You’ll quit quitting.
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 workout buddy there. The same is true for slacking off during exercise: You’re not going to stop for so many “water” (read: Instagram and text) breaks when you’ve got a friend there to call you out.
6. You’ll meet your goals faster.
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.
7. You’ll have more sex.
This one’s only true if your workout partner is also your sexual 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 together, like exercising. (Psst...here’s how many calories you actually burn during sex.)
8. You'll break out of your rut.
When you sweat solo, it’s all too easy to fall back on the 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 challenging for your muscles and your mind.
Where to Find a Workout Buddy
Inspired to sweat as a duo—or group? Seek out advice and connections from one of these online or IRL sources.
1. Join a Zogsports League
With a focus on young professionals, this organization is a great way to sign up for intramural teams, classes, clinics, and social events. Part of the proceeds go to charity, making this a worthwhile way to meet a workout buddy.
2. Get Inspired On Meetup.com
As the world's largest network for special-interest groups, it's tough not to be inspired by the fun things people are signing up for on this site. You can find anything from a local hiking group filled with workout buddies to meet-ups for exercising with your pets.
3. Go for a Groupon Deal
Thanks to the deeply discounted prices for fitness-related classes, it's easier than ever to sign up for anything from yoga classes to rock-climbing lessons on LivingSocial or Groupon. The dopamine rush from trying something new (like trapeze, perhaps?!) can create a bond between people, so strike up a convo with someone else in your class...he or she could be the workout buddy you've been searching for!
4. Ask Your Trainer/Coach
Talk to a professional at your gym to see if he or she knows of anyone who is interested in finding a workout partner. The trainer will know both of your skills and interests—and it never hurts to go through a mutual acquaintance.
5. Reach Out to Friends
This may seem obvious, but working out is actually a great way to spend time with friends who you've lost touch with or go months without seeing. Instead of letting your busy lives get in the way of bonding time, you can take a monthly or weekly class together to stay fit—while you catch up.
6. Ask Around at Work
Have a coworker who seems like she's just as interested in healthy living as you are? Talk to her about it! You may find that you have fitness goals in common, and because you see each other every day and have similar schedules, it will be easy to plan time to exercise together as workout buddies.