If you’ve fallen behind on exercise goals, you aren’t alone. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services advises that American adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity each week. However, a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that less than half of us meet that recommendation.
If you are looking for a willpower boost to get you moving, it’s time to reach out to family, friends and even work colleagues and find a workout partner. Researchers have found that you are more likely to exercise – and exercise more – if you do it with another person. In fact, you are more likely to increase both the amount of time you exercise and your fitness levels.
The Spouse Connection
Previous studies have shown that people who are married tend to eat a healthier diet if their spouse does. Now, a new study from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health has revealed that people who are married or in domestic partnerships can boost each other’s exercise resolve, too.
The research showed that if one spouse increased their physical activity, their partner was much more likely to do the same. This was no small increase, either. A spouse was 40% – 70% more likely to meet exercise recommendations if their partner was physically active.
“When it comes to physical fitness, the best peer pressure to get moving could be coming from the person who sits across from you at the breakfast table,” said Laura Cobb, a co-leader of the study who presented the research at the American Heart Association’s 2015 Scientific Sessions. “There’s an epidemic of people in this country who don’t get enough exercise and we should harness the power of the couple to ensure people are getting a healthy amount of physical activity.”
For their study, the Johns Hopkins researchers analyzed the medical records of 3,261 spouse pairs who were a part of the decades-long Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study. Their findings revealed a potentially effective way to encourage adult couples to get on a mutual and lasting course of regular exercise. Couples who received counseling on health and the benefits of exercise together, rather than separately, were significantly more likely to increase physical activity.
If you’ve hit middle age or beyond, it’s not too late to enlist your partner to spur both of you on to more exercise and a healthier life, either. A study by the British Heart Foundation and the National Institute on Aging looked at 3,722 couples, either married or living together and over the age of 50, and found those who exercised as a team were more like to succeed in meeting their workout goals.
Finding Workout Partners
Of course, you don’t have to be in a relationship to need – and find – a workout partner. Researchers from the University of Leeds found that talking with a friend or colleague about working out and planning an exercise partnership starts what they called a “buddy scheme” that boosts the likelihood you’ll both stick to your goals.
“Specific plans regarding when, where and how a person will act have been termed ‘implementation intentions’,” Professor Mark Conner from the Institute of Psychological Science at the University of Leeds explained," You set up cues that prompt your planned behavior.”
Conner and colleagues followed up with people who partnered with co-workers to exercise regularly and found planning a work-out routine together had a sustained effect that kept them exercising more even after six months. “When all else is equal, forming exercise plans with a partner will increase your chances of actually sticking to them,” Conner said.
Tips on Recruiting Work-Out Partner:
- Network on the job. Let your co-workers know you are looking for an exercise partner. It can be as simple as starting off meeting for a walk before or after work. The key is to keep regular goals and stick with them.
- Be open with neighbors and friends. Many people nearby may be looking for a walking or workout partner, too. You won’t know if you don’t ask.
- Consider online connections. One of the largest networks for special-interest groups, meetup.com, offers a way to connect with people who are interested in all kinds of activities, including adult sports, working out and even dog walking. Consider trying out a few groups to see if you can find one or more people who would like to share exercise goals and activities.