How a gym buddy can help you lose weight
What are the benefits of a workout partner?
You know how when you and your partner wash dishes together after a big meal, the kitchen gets clean that much faster? Teamwork has a similar payoff when it comes to weight loss and healthy living, too.
“When we studied the drop-out rate of a year-long fitness programme, we found that couples who entered the programme together had only an eight per cent drop-out rate, compared with roughly fifty per cent of the people who entered the programme alone,” says John Raglin, Ph.D, Professor of Kinesiology at Indiana University, who conducted the study. “And we’ve found that you get similar results whether you’re working with a spouse, a friend, or within a group.”
Similarly, an Australian study found that married couples participating in a 16-week fitness programme were much more likely to eat well and exercise consistently than couples who didn’t participate in the programme.
These studies lend credence to something you likely already know: the support you get from a partner or spouse can be invaluable when it comes to achieving your goals. “We all know that eating well and exercising is good for you, but oftentimes, that’s just not enough reason to motivate,” explains Raglin.
“Committing to other people, however - whether it’s by agreeing to meet to work out, or just to stick to similar goals - gives you the accountability you need to make it happen.”
Here’s how to make it work for you:
1. How to pick the right workout partner
Your best friend may be great for late night phone calls, but might not necessarily be your ideal fitness buddy. “You need to find someone who has similar goals, similar obstacles, and the willingness to commit,” says Susan Rudnicki, Ph.D, a clinical health psychologist and personal trainer.
When choosing someone to team up with, first identify what stands in your way the most. Is it making time to exercise, for example? Then work out how a fitness buddy could help you.
“If you’re struggling to find time to work out with your busy work schedule, maybe you have a co-worker who is interested in taking lunchtime power walks with you,” says Adam Shafran, Ph.D, author of You Can’t Lose Weight Alone: The Partner Power Weight Loss Programme.
“Keep an eye out for someone who has a really positive attitude, and seems like they’ll be encouraging without being too competitive,” says Rudnicki. “Start by asking whether they're interested in getting together once or twice to work out or to discuss fitness goals, and then see if you can transform it into something more long-term.”
2. Come up with a game plan
Before you embark on a fitness regime, it’s important to identify your goals. “Commit to working out a certain number of times a week, whether it’s together or separately,” says Rudnicki. “If you don’t work out together, check in weekly by phone or email to make sure that you’re meeting your obligation.”
Shafran adds: “If you have to check in with your partner, you’re a lot less likely to cheat.” Whatever excuses you may tell yourself – you’re having a rough day, you’ll exercise tomorrow instead – may not fly with your partner.
“Don’t be afraid to team up with multiple people,” says Rudnicki. “Maybe you have one friend who gets you to Zumba class, but it’s another who helps you make the lifestyle changes you need, plus your spouse who gets you out of bed to exercise when all you want to do is hit the snooze button.”
3. Keep it positive
If your partner is having an easier time meeting their goals, use it as motivation rather than feeling frustrated.
“Say, ‘I’d love to share some of your success – how about if we add an extra workout day to our activity plan?’” says Shafran. “Remember, this is a long-term commitment and if you keep at it with your buddy, you’ll achieve similar results.”
If, however, your partner starts to get jealous of your success, you may need to have a frank talk. “Unfortunately, we sometimes see people try and sabotage their partner,” says Shafran. “In that case, I usually suggest talking to them about how important it is for you to meet your goals, how much it means to your health and happiness, and why you’re hoping that they’ll stick with it.” If that doesn’t work, you may need to find a new partner. “It can be tricky in the case of a spouse, but I recommend finding a friend who can give you the support you may not be getting at home,” says Shafran.