Brian Parr

Brian Parr

Most people who exercise have a reason why they do it. For some, it’s all about improving fitness or trying to lose weight. For others, exercise is a way to prevent disease or recover from an injury. But many people exercise for social reasons, too. For them, exercise is about the people as much as it is the activity.

Exercising with others is a great way to increase your motivation and enjoyment. This makes it more likely you will stick with your exercise program, leading to better fitness and health. This can be as simple as having a partner to walk with, going to an exercise class at the gym or joining a running group in the community. But there are additional benefits to exercising with others that may help you get started and continue your fitness program.

Exercising with others provides a level of motivation and accountability that is important, especially for people who aren’t self-motivated. Knowing that you are meeting a friend for a walk or meeting a training partner at the gym makes it less likely that you will find an excuse to skip a workout. While guilt isn’t the best reason to exercise, for many people it is the one thing that will get them moving.

Exercising with others can also help you get a better workout. When you are exercising with another person or a group you can get feedback on your technique. Doing exercises properly can reduce the risk of injury and improve your gains strength, endurance, and flexibility.

You can also get ideas for new exercises and training techniques that can make exercise more enjoyable and less monotonous. Many people find that having a friend to walk or run with makes the time seem to go by faster. The friendly “competition” that can come from a partner or group can push you to train harder, making the exercise more beneficial.

A group dynamic is an important component of many popular exercise classes and programs. At the gym, participants in classes from aerobics to Zumba and spin to yoga benefit from the support and motivation of exercising with others. And programs like boot camps, CrossFit and F3 are popular largely because of the camaraderie of the other group members.

Exercise can also be for other people. Many community running or walking events help raise money for local or national charities. Sometimes people will train for and complete in an event with a specific person in mind. These “I’m running for” events can help provide inspiration for the runner and awareness for others.

Some workouts are done as memorials for others. In CrossFit, there are a collection of workouts inspired by and named for American soldiers who have died in combat. Often done in groups, these “Hero WODS” tend to be intense tests of fitness and motivation. One such workout is called Murph. Many people around the world will complete the Murph challenge on Memorial Day to raise awareness and money for the Lt. Michael P. Murphy Memorial Scholarship Foundation.

In case you are curious, Murph consists of a mile run, then 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups, and 300 squats, followed by another mile run, all while wearing a weighted vest. For many people who participate, Murph is as much about the people – the heroes you are exercising for as well as the group you are doing it with – as it is about the exercise.

So, if you are struggling to find motivation to exercise, consider doing it with or for other people. You will find inspiration and accountability, helping you meet your fitness goals and enjoying yourself along the way.

Brian Parr, Ph.D., is an associate professor in the Department of Exercise and Sports Science at USC Aiken where he teaches courses in exercise physiology, nutrition and health behavior. You can learn more about this and other health and fitness topics at http://drparrsays.com or on Twitter @drparrsays.