When it comes to health promotion and disease prevention, the benefits of working out are very well-established. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a habit of physical activity can help you maintain a healthy weight, strengthen your bones and muscles and reduce your risk of injury, all while preventing heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and some forms of cancer.
There is also strong evidence to suggest that staying active can improve your overall mental health and sense of well-being. This isn't breaking news. However, the reality is — despite all of this evidence — sticking to a regular exercise routine is a real challenge for most people.
Interestingly, an ever-growing body of research suggests that exercising with a partner or in a group could help you better stick with your exercise routine while also enhancing its benefits. In fact, there are a number of proven benefits of working out with others.
In the field of psychology, there is a principle called the Köhler Effect that has a direct bearing on any discussion regarding health and fitness. This idea essentially states that no one wants to be the weakest link in a group setting. Specifically regarding exercise, this means that one of the benefits of working out with others could include a healthy sense of competition.
According to numerous studies, this idea holds up. One study, for example, asked participants to hold a plank position for as long as possible. First, they did this workout alone. Then, the same exercisers were assigned a virtual partner — who would always outperform them — and asked to repeat the workout. On this second trial, the subjects increased their average plank time by around 24 percent.
Similarly, a study from Kansas State University found that people who exercise with a group could see their performance enhanced by as much as 200 percent. Clearly, working out with others can push you to exercise harder than you might on your own.
Adherence and Accountability
Enjoying the health promotion and disease prevention benefits of a fitness routine is strongly dependent on regularity and adherence. Your workouts cannot be sporadic or haphazard. One of the primary benefits of working out with others, then, is the accountability provided by a group.
Simply knowing that someone else is waiting for you and that you have agreed to exercise with them can give you the necessary motivation to get up and go — even when you don't really want to. A partner can also help you to overcome any challenges that might pop up and maintain a positive view of your fitness endeavors.
Learning from Others
In addition to the motivation provided by your workout partner, your gym buddy could also help you learn both new exercises and how to improve the exercises you already know. Put simply, this is a "two heads are better than one" situation.
By discussing your goals and challenges, you and your partner will be able to help each other design and modify your workouts based on your shared knowledge. Since you can act as spotters for one another, your partner can also help you improve your form — which will ultimately make your workouts safer and more effective.
A fitness routine in itself is a vital tool for health promotion and disease prevention, but there is strong evidence to suggest that the benefits of fitness can be amplified by simply involving someone else in your workout.