Starting a fitness routine can be hard. Continuing it can be harder. It’s easy to allow other things to take precedence over a workout. Then once you miss one, it’s easier to allow it to happen again…and again. Before long, you realize you haven’t worked out in weeks. How can this be avoided?
There are lots of factors that go into the mix: timing, location, weather (especially for outdoor workouts like running), family, school, or work activities, and the list goes on. Yet, despite these disruptions, some manage to stay true to their workout goals. What is their secret? Just like there are reasons people can be sidetracked, there are many factors that can help them be consistent.
Does Pairing Up Promote Workout Accountability?
One significant factor tied to success, research reveals, is spousal support. Researchers at Indiana University decided to test a theory that adherence to a fitness regimen was related to personal motivation as well as working as a team with a spouse. Rather than recruit individuals for a scientific study, they evaluated the voluntary participants in a university fitness program.
A total of 16 married couples signed up for the program together. Additionally, 16 married men and 14 married women signed up without their spouses. Researchers gave them a self-motivation questionnaire, but no other changes or additions were made to the established program.
After 12 months, researchers looked back on participants’ attendance, how well they stuck with their exercise program, whether or not they dropped out and for what reason(s). They also evaluated self-motivation from the questionnaire.
- Overall, adherence to the program was good for married pairs and married women, while the married men who signed up without their spouses were less compliant.
- Monthly attendance was significantly higher(52% vs 40%) and dropouts were significantly lower (6% vs 43%) for married pairs when compared to married singles.
- For those who did not complete the program, half of the dropouts left citing “family responsibilities/lack of spousal support.”
- A quarter of the dropouts reported that they continued to exercise on their own, while the vast majority (75%) did not.
Surprising to the researchers, self-motivation had no significant variation between married pairs and married singles. However, monthly attendance of the spouses together in the married pairs had a significant link.
Older Married Couples Walk Together Better Than Alone
A study published in the BMC Geriatrics in 2017, sought to determine if an exercise program targeted at older married couples would have better compliance than one focused on individuals. Participants attended an 8-week supervised program consisting of a once-a-week meeting with walking and strength exercises to be done at home. At the end of 8-weeks, they were given a 24-week program to do on their own including walking 2 or more times a week, doing 6 or more strength exercises at least twice a week, and keeping an exercise diary of these activities.
Researchers found no significant differences between the couples’ group and the non-couple group. However, the couples’ group were much more likely (almost 30%) to maintain the walking regimen, leading researchers to conclude that promoting exercise programs to older married couples rather than simply individuals, may reap better results.
Grab Your Partner!
Why does working out with your spouse matter? It may be the shared time, shared goals, and comradery built as you each struggle and succeed in the process. If you both are adhering to a workout schedule, then you each recognize the importance of keeping that time clear and so you will avoid conflicts and be less likely to cancel.
Whatever the reason, research has shown that there is indeed a link. Make it a date. Maybe you skip dinner and a movie and go for a picnic and a walk/run. Or maybe you sweat it out together at the gym, and then head home for a nutritious meal.
What if I’m not married?
Don’t stress! If your single, or your spouse doesn’t want to participate, you can still enjoy the support of a workout couple! Reach out to family members, friends, co-workers, pairing up is the key. Having a partner makes it harder to cancel a workout since someone is waiting for you.
Take Advantage of Technology
Over the last few years, technology has given us the opportunity to have a virtual workout partner. The benefit of online accountability can be a big help for those who may not have someone they are able to workout with in person or when responsibilities such as child care or elder care make it necessary for them to workout separately. Whether you choose to workout with a simulated partner or with a remote partner, the support to stick with your exercise plan can be a game-changer, and can even push you to put forth more effort.
A 2020 study reviewed the effect of having a simulated (software-generated) partner during a variety of exercises that included “at least 30 minutes of vigorous exercise 3x·wk, trained on a cycle ergometer 6 days per week for 24 weeks in an alternating regimen of moderate-intensity 30-minute continuous and 3 types of high-intensity interval sessions (8 × 30-second sprints, 6 × 2-minute ladders, and 4 × 4-minute intervals. “ Participants could vary the cycle power to alter intensity of the workout. These changes were used to measure effort motivation. During continuous and interval sessions, researchers found the effort to be positive, but similar among those who were in the control group and those who had the simulated partner. However, they also found that those doing the interval training with an always superior simulated partner exhibited “significantly increased effort” compared to the control group. This led them to conclude: “Exercising with an always superior partner leads to greater work efforts during the hardest interval training compared to exercising alone.“
Another study published in 2021 reviewed 88 studies regarding the effects of “remote” workout partners. Less costly than a simulated partner, a remote partner is a real person who you connect with via a social networking platform.
Researchers evaluated the effects of interactive social media interventions where adults gathered online to communicate directly with each other to share information, knowledge, and opinions. They compared interactive social media with non-interactive social media (including in person or paper based) and no intervention. They found that the online interactions had a positive effect on some behaviors such as increasing physical activity and medical screening tests. Other outcomes, including weight loss and resting heart rate showed small, but positive effect. However, some behaviors such as diet and reducing tobacco use had little to no effect. They concluded that social media interventions may be effective in increasing physical activity and improving well-being.
The use of virtual and remote workout partners and internet applications to affect health behaviors is a relatively new area for research, as the technology has only been developed over the last few decades. Therefore, additional studies are needed to evaluate population characteristics, learn how to maximize retention and engagement and to determine if these are viable options for long term changes in health. In the meantime, you may consider trying one of these options. Please remember to utilize all internet security controls when interacting with any website, app or program.
Where do I start?
If you are unsure about how to start an exercise program, talk to your chiropractor at your next visit. Knowing your current health conditions, your doctor of chiropractic can help you determine what level of exercise might be best for you. Your chiropractor is also a great resource for stretches and tips to help you prevent injury on your health journey. Regular chiropractic checkups will help keep your body aligned so that you are getting the maximum benefit from your efforts, while minimizing unnecessary stress and strain on your body. If you do not already have a chiropractor, you can find a TCA member doctor near you at www.tnchiro.com/find-a-doctor/.
Those that work out together, get fit together! In the gym, on the internet, out in nature, or wherever your workouts take you – keep each other accountable, encourage each other, and celebrate those milestones! You’re not only investing time in your own health, but also your partner’s health, and your relationship. Now that’s a significant return on investment!
Wallace JP, Raglin JS, Jastremski CA. “Twelve month adherence of adults who joined a fitness program with a spouse vs without a spouse.” J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 1995 Sep;35(3):206-13.
Osuka Y, Jung S, Kim T, Okubo Y, Kim E, Tanaka K. “Does attending an exercise class with a spouse improve long-term exercise adherence among people aged 65 years and older: a 6-month prospective follow-up study.” BMC Geriatr. 2017 Jul 31;17(1):170. doi: 10.1186/s12877-017-0554-9.
Feltz DL, Hill CR, Samendinger S, Myers ND, Pivarnik JM, Winn B, Ede A, Ploutz-Snyder L. Can Simulated Partners Boost Workout Effort in Long-Term Exercise? J Strength Cond Res. 2020 Sep;34(9):2434-2442. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000003732. PMID: 32732774.
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