Unless you’re a free spirit without a care in the world, the thought of visiting the gym without a friend at your side can be downright anxiety-inducing.
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Check out these surprising workout partner statistics that might just convince you to find a gym buddy of your own.
Statistics on Working Out with a Friend
- Studies reveal that we’re more likely to pick up healthy behaviors if we spend time with other willing participants. 2010 research shows that less fit people are more likely to exercise at a higher intensity when paired with a fitter partner.
- Working out alongside a more fit partner boosts motivation, encouraging non-athletes to hold plants about 24% longer.
- When exercising with somebody “better,” one study discovered that people ramp up their workout intensity and time by some 200%.
How to Choose Your Workout Partner
Working out with a friend certainly adds a splash of entertainment to repetitive workouts.
(The sound of the treadmill zipping under your feet or the clinking of iron weights will eventually start to wear on you.)
Turning your workouts into a more social affair requires a few simple rules:
Find Someone You Actually Like and Trust
There’s no worse time to “rekindle” things with an ex or your hot-and-cold friend than when you have a 200-pound bar hovering over your ribcage.
If you hide behind an endcap when you see them at the grocery store or sigh when they call, a 30–60-minute workout with them will feel like sheer torture.
Ask your friends, teammates, co-workers, family, or acquaintances at the gym.
Choose a Person With Similar Goals
Some guys are simple; they enjoy the chit-chat on the drive to and from the gym.
If you’re looking for somebody who can spot your lifts, offer form tips, and motivate you to crank out one final rep, find someone who wants the same.
Cardio fanatics, choose a fellow runner or biker. Weightlifters, look for fellow “bros.”
Also try to find someone with the same motivational drive. For example, pairing a casual-goer with someone who posts on Instagram that they’re “addicted to exercise” probably won’t work in the long term.
Look for Someone With More Experience
Despite physical exercise statistics that show the benefits of going to the gym, for 73% of gym newbies setting New Years’ Resolutions, that motivation to bulk up or chip away at body fat will soon crash and burn.
Ask around to see if your buddies with a regular workout routine are willing to let you tag along. This gives them the chance to “mentor” you, teach you the ropes, and push you toward gains.
If there’s that nagging thought of “I don’t know what I’m doing,” this is the clear winner!
Don’t (Wait, What?)
The search for a gym buddy can feel hopeless if you work odd hours, have unique physique goals, or insist on enrolling at a lesser-known gym.
But if even the thought of a solo visit makes your heart race, there’s another — somewhat controversial — option: don’t find a workout partner.
… wait, what?
Instead, attend group fitness classes at your local gym tailored to your experience level and favorite workout styles. That way, you’ll:
- Feel less gym intimidation: Everyone else in the room is starting from square one and is looking to improve their fitness too. Nobody in the room is sizing you up or judging you!
- Receive guidance from a trained professional: One-on-one personal trainers can cost up to $100/hour, and it can feel awkward to have one set of eyes staring at you as you crank out squats. Equally talented trainers can also lead group fitness classes, teaching you the basics in a more low-pressure setting.
- Learn the basics: Many exercises require biomechanical precision to build strength and size while also preventing severe injury. In the case of CrossFit, winging the
flop-like-a-fishkipping pull-up could put you at risk for a sidelining shoulder injury. A group instructor can teach you — and your fellow newcomers — how to master perfect form!
- Make friends who already share your interests: Maybe your social circle prefers gaming and DIY projects over lifting and biking (hey, to each their own!). Group fitness classes are a great place to meet those chasing the same goals as you.
Digital platforms like BodyFit (from Bodybuilding.com) and Beachbody On Demand (the geniuses behind P90X and Insanity) offer virtual home workouts to combat the fitness anxiety.
The point: your options aren’t only to exercise alone or find a partner!
The Best Apps for Long-Distance Workout Partners
If you’re awaiting a virtual or long-distance workout partner, of course — there’s an app for that. These are the best apps to help you challenge and motivate your fellow fitness junkies from afar:
|App Name||Starting Cost||Benefits|
|Strava||Free||Challenge your Strava friends to ride or run challenges|
|Fitbit||Free (requires Fitbit device)||Arrange daily or weekly challenges to see who can take the most steps|
|Workout Buddies (questionable ratings, but the concept is there)||Free||Post your gym on the app to find others willing to tag along on your workouts|
|Sweat||Free 7-day trial (as of June 2021)||Create a challenge to top your PRs or simply outperform your last workout|
|Nike Run Club||Free||Cheer on your friends as they run in real-time|
And, if you plan to meet a new workout buddy in person, be smart about it.
Meet up in a public place (preferably a gym), drive separately to the workout location, and don’t provide them with any personal information. Build that trust and bond before crossing these lines.
Study Shows Group Exercise Has Major Benefits
A group pilates, CrossFit, or circuit training class could be well outside of your comfort zone. However, the benefits go far beyond a lower resting heart rate or shedding a few pounds.
A little something known as the Köhler effect.
This psychological phenomenon suggests that people experience a drive to work harder when surrounded by a group. The motivation stems from a fear of becoming the group’s “weak link.”
That was the focus of a 2011 article published in the Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology.
Participants didn’t only hold planks for 53.86 seconds longer when they thought their workout partner was watching (they weren’t).
The results also revealed that those co-exercising:
- Exerted themselves more (though, participants didn’t believe so)
- Enjoyed the workout a little extra
- Drove their heart rates up higher
- Revealed a desire to exercise for 30 minutes the following day
In simpler terms?
Exercising alongside a friend might not make you physically stronger or more fit. However, the mental drive to perform better with a partner can ultimately boost performance.
If you’re struggling with fitness motivation, join an active friend on their next gym visit.
Weight Loss Success Rates Increase With a Partner
- People who are overweight or obese are more likely to lose weight when they socialize with their fitter friends. Their weight declines even more with each interaction.
- Of those who begin weight-loss programs with their friends, about 95% will finish the program (versus 76% who complete it alone). The entire group is also 42% more likely to keep the pounds off.
The Power of Friendship (& Weight Loss)
Is it the sheer power of friendship that’s encouraging heavier folks to lose weight? No!
And, the inspiration to torch those extra pounds might not be as wholesome as it seems.
Some of it seemingly falls back on social stigma and the desire to blend into the crowd. This mindset could ultimately lead to an unhealthy diet, exercise obsession, or self-esteem issues.
(Case in point: even an app as simple as Instagram can trigger body image issues in 65% of men and 87% of women when comparing themselves to their fellow, fitter users.)
The explanation can also be entirely innocent.
When you live a generally unhealthy and sedentary lifestyle, socializing with your more health-conscious and active pals can expose you to things like:
- Doing more social activities (walking, rock climbing, swimming, etc.)
- Eating at healthier restaurants (or even order greener options)
- Hitting the gym (the quick and easy way to find a gym partner)
- Avoiding unhealthy habits (drinking, smoking drugs, etc.)
It’d be a bit superficial to intentionally build a friendship with somebody simply because you want to lose weight and adopt their healthy habits.
But, keep an open mind!
If you notice that you’re stopping for a quick bite at Wendy’s or lounge around for hours during every get-together, it might be time to expand your inner circle.
How to Get Fit (With Your Friends!)
When your typical hangout session is a four-hour Game of Thrones binge-a-thon or an all-day Call of Duty tourney, suggesting a salad or trip to the gym might sound completely outlandish.
Push-back is normal and to be expected!
Want to get fit with your best pals by your side? Here are a few tips to make that a reality:
Hold Each Other Accountable
Will your friend turn a blind eye when you’re sneaking a lava cake at the restaurant? Would they accept “I’m too tired — maybe tomorrow” when you text to bail on your workout plans?
If they’re a good workout partner, hell no!
Accept no B.S. excuses, and don’t forget to hold each other accountable. Sometimes, shooting them those “seriously dude?” daggers is enough to make them reconsider their impulses.
Set Some Ground Rules When Hanging Out
The quickest way to ruin a good time is setting ground rules. While it’s not your place to police anyone else’s eating or exercise habits, you can voice your needs if you share a tight bond.
If they’re dead-set on fast food for lunch, suggest a “healthier” choice like Chipotle, Chick-Fil-A, or Wendy’s. Or ask if you can walk to the store instead of driving (city-dwellers, of course).
Suggest More Active Hobbies
Does every hangout begin with the classic, “What do you want to do? I don’t know; what do you want to do?” Now’s your chance to toss out an idea that involves a little bit of fitness.
A few ideas:
- Hiking or walking at a park
- Snowboarding, skiing, skateboarding, rock climbing, biking, trampoline parks (some facilities have adult-only jump hours!)
- Fitness video games (Xbox Kinect)
- Garage or basement workouts
- Cornhole, bowling, etc.
It’s possible to have fun and break a sweat at the same time!
Make the First Move
According to the CDC, about 49.1% of American adults try to lose weight any given year. Lucky for you, there’s a near 50/50 shot that one of your friends wants to either bulk or cut.
They might simply be afraid to ask.
Tell your friends that you’re signing up for a monthly gym membership, and ask them if any of them want to join you!
Additional Research on Having a Fitness/Workout Buddy
- Exercising with a partner can improve athletic performance, leading to 200% longer workouts than those who exercise on their own.
What’s Behind This Phenomenon?
Will partnering up in the squat rack magically add 100 pounds to your lift? Probably not legally.
Can a friend convince you to drag your usual 30-minute workout into an all-afternoon affair? Not if you have an ounce of self-respect and the world’s best pre-workout powder.
So … what’s the link between having a workout partner and improved athletic performance?
Here are a few possible explanations:
The Köhler Effect (Described Earlier)
You’re so worried about looking weak or unathletic that you push yourself a little harder than usual. Is the drive to fit in so powerful that it’d boost performance by 200%?
That’s questionable at best.
You Don’t Normally Push Yourself
If you’re notorious for half-assing your workouts, having a fitness partner can encourage you to pour more effort into your training sessions.
You can’t cut the workout short or choose ultra-low weights without that awkward conversation with your buddy. That in itself might be enough to motivate you to give at least 80% effort.
There’s More You Can Do
When you have another gym lunk like yourself to pair with, it opens up plenty of doors, at least exercise-wise.
That friend can also double as your spotter for exercises like:
- Bench press
- Overhead press
- Back squat
- Deadlift (even if only to monitor your form)
- Pull-up (if you need a boost)
When you practice perfect form and can safely end a heavy rep halfway through, your risk of injury drops substantially. You can also swap out those machine exercises for the real thing!
How Workout Buddies Affect Your Mood (Research)
- A 30-minute exercise bike workout with a partner or friend can create a greater sense of calm than those choosing to exercise alone.
- Working out with a friend, co-worker, spouse, or family member can make workouts more enjoyable for the unenthusiastic.
- Mirrored room workouts — like those experienced in yoga studios — can create a sense of discomfort and self-consciousness in women new to fitness.
Why Workout Buddies Are Great for Your Mood
The statistics above might seem a little misleading. We’ve been chattering about the perks of workout partners up until now, only to throw in a downside at the very last moment?
Well, let’s talk about the mirrored room thing for a second.
You worked up the courage to invest in a gym membership and finally enrolled in a group yoga class — it’s your first one ever, and you’re nervous you’ll look silly.
Then, you walk in to find that 1) everyone else seems to know the poses and can execute them masterfully, and 2) the mirror convinces you that 15 sets of eyes are ogling your every move.
It’s no wonder these studios make women and newbies so self-conscious!
If you’re wondering what it is about workout buddies that makes them so good for your psyche, here are a few reasons:
- You can rip your focus away from the dripping sweat and shaky muscles, shifting your focus to the conversation at hand.
- Both you and your gym buddy can lend words of encouragement when hitting plateaus or struggling with that final grueling set.
- It feels less like you versus the world (or the entire gym), easing that nagging thought that the more elite gym-goers are judging you.
- You’re surrounding yourself with people with health-centered goals; you can feed off their energy and support and vice versa.
- It’s something to look forward to and can even be fun or relaxing after a long day.
As long as you select a workout partner that’s just as passionate about getting in shape as you, there’s simply no reason to chase your goals alone.
Plus, statistics show that exercise can reduce stress overall.
When you’re on the brink of canceling your gym membership, reconsider! Find yourself a committed and uplifting training partner who can motivate you to push forward.
Can’t find anyone?
Here are a few tips for matching with a potential gym buddy:
- Post about it on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter: don’t forget to mention which gym you go to — or plan to sign-up for — and which types of workouts spark your interest
- Find apps: list your gym on a workout app to find locals willing to join forces
- Ask around: whether you’re talking to a distant cousin, colleague, or the guy in the squat rack next to you, ask if anybody’s looking for a gym buddy
- Join fitness apps: MyFitnessPal, Fitbit, MapMyWalk, and others all have message boards built-in for fitness nuts like yourself; virtual group workouts can be just as effective
(Avoid posting ads on shady sites like Craigslist.)
Never forget that workout duos are a two-way street, and finding balance is key to everyone’s success. Your partner might need you to offer them words of encouragement now and then.
One parting tip:
Try to find someone who’s already a gym rat or shares common interests. That way, you can siphon some of their passion or view your workouts as fit-savvy “hangout” sessions!