Should I keep exercising alone?

1As a regular exerciser, what I enjoy most is the time that I run outdoors listening to my favorite music. This is the time that I want to be away from everybody else, being just with myself thinking about some of my daily life issues. As I have mentioned before, in one of my previous article, music can accompany us during exercise and become our motivational tool. It can enhance the relaxation response and also improve the feeling of enjoyment. However, having a busy professional life might not only push us away from our training routine, but also from our social life. What I am trying to say is that being busy at work for most of the day leaves us less and less time to spend with friends and our life partner. Therefore, we should try to find a way in order to balance our professional and social life, without reducing our exercise time. So what might change if you start exercising with a friend or your girlfriend/boyfriend instead of your irresistible favorite music? Will it improve your relationship and face-to-face communication with others, or will it ruin your exercise habits and the time you want to be just with yourself?

My curiosity forced me to start searching on some of the most well-known health and fitness websites, trying to explore which benefits we might have by exercising with our partner or a friend, if there are any. Not surprisingly I found numerous good reasons supporting how beneficial it is to exercise accompanied by someone else. Three of the most interesting facts that I found are:

It’s easier to find time to exercise                                                                                                     By scheduling a few dates at the gym or just working out at a park or at home, you will be spending time working out with your significant other, effectively “taking care” of two important tasks in your busy day at once. In a simpler way, you can achieve a social interaction and exercise at the same time.

Exercise becomes a lot more fun                                                                                                     For some individuals, exercise might become a boring routine. However, when you are working out with someone you love, you’d be surprised how quickly the time passes. You will laugh and catch up with each other’s news since you saw each other last. You’ll look forward to the time you spend together working out.

Motivation and commitment to exercise                                                                                     You know your partner or friends well, particularly their strengths and weaknesses so you are in a great position to capitalize on this knowledge and motivate them when you can see that the workout is getting tough. Additionally, on those days when you’re not 100% sure if you want to tackle your planned workout, you are far less likely to ditch the session because you have already made an “exercise date”.

All the above and numerous other interesting facts clearly support and promote the beneficial aspects of exercising with your partner or a friend. However, at this point I want to blend it a bit and make it more scientific by referring to a study dealing with the main question “Does Exercise Environment Enhance the Psychological Benefits of Exercise for Women”. In the first experiment, 128 female college students experienced the same exercise task in terms of type and intensity of exercise. The three exercise groups differed only in the social setting in which they were placed. Group 1 participants biked alone, group 2 participants biked with a stranger (two women randomly assigned to the same lab session), and group 3 participants biked with a close friend they brought with them. In the second experiment there were 4 different groups.  Group 1 participants walked alone on a treadmill in the university fitness facility on campus. Group 2 participants completed the same treadmill walk as group 1 but did so alongside a friend who walked on an adjacent treadmill. Group 3 completed a walk of the same length and intensity but along a prescribed route on the university campus. Group 4 completed the same walk as group 3 but brought a friend with them.  Interestingly, the results showed that in experiment 1, participants who exercised with a friend experienced less calmness following exercise than those who exercised alone. In other words, it was found that participants were most calm when they were by themselves and less calm when they were exercising with a friend. Additionally, in experiment 2, it was found that enjoyment was most enhanced when the exercise took place outdoors. Overall, the findings suggested that the psychological improvements associated with exercise may rather be related to the exercise environment (e.g., outdoors results in more enjoyment than indoors) and may have less relationship with social factors (e.g., exercising alone in a gym results in more calmness than exercising with others and especially with a friend).

Scientifically viewed or not, each of us has his or her own way of enjoying the different exercise routines. Some of us enjoy exercising alone, whereas others seek an exercise buddy. From my point of view, both directions are right when they promote fun, enjoyment and deliver balance in our lives. My suggestion is, exercise more whether you like to do it alone or with your partner.

About Anastasios Rodis

Anastasios Rodis is an exercise physiologist at Aspetar Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine Hospital in Qatar. Anastasios holds a European Masters in Sport and Exercise Psychology (Lund Universitet, Sweden/Leipzig, Germany). He has also completed an M.Sc in Applied exercise physiology (University of Bangor, wales, UK) and a B.Sc in Sport Sciences (University of Portsmouth, UK). Anastasios has 15 years of athletic history in track and field. He has worked as a sport psychologist with elite Swedish swimmers. He has also efficiently cooperated as an exercise physiologist with Panathinaikos football club and worked with elite athletic teams, individual athletes as well as patients with musculoskeletal injuries. His main focus is the promotion of exercise and healthy lifestyle by using and combining both physical and mental techniques.
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