How a Gym Buddy Is Your Key to Exercising More, Staying Motivated, and Furthering Gains


If you’re a creature of habit and like to run or lift by your lonesome, it can be hard to let a buddy breach your gym space. If he can’t keep up, he’ll hinder your workout. But if he’s a Hulk in normal-guy’s clothing, well, you don’t want to be shown up.

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But, new research from the University of Aberdeen in the UK is making a solid case for swallowing your pride and buddying up: Finding a new workout partner can increase how much you exercise.

In the study, researchers asked half of participants to find a new gym buddy and the other half to plug away at with their typical regimen for 8 weeks. The team also instructed participants to rate how supportive their workout partner was in order to see what kind of reinforcement is most effective for motivating people to work out. Researchers categorized support into two types: emotional (someone who’s encouraging, motivating, uplifting) and instrumental (someone who never lets you miss a class).

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“I had read motivation tips in a leaflet that suggested having an exercise companion would help me to exercise more but I wanted to know if this was true,” lead study author Pamela Rackow said in a press release. “This study is unique in that it reflects natural life relatively well because when you decide to exercise with a friend—you ask someone in your normal social network regardless of whether they fit certain criteria or not,” she added.

At the study’s conclusion, the group who found a new exercise partner exercised more than those who followed their regular exercise routine. What’s more, how often they exercised was boosted by how emotionally supportive their workout partner was. 

So, in effect, it’s actually more beneficial to be a source of support for one another than it is to physically support one another, like serve as a spot, and work out together. Sure, the competetive drive will certainly help. But having someone to push you beyond a practical means can do more for your desire to hit the gym and better your health and gains than berating you for skipping leg day ever will.

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