The Social Side of Exercise Sharing the pain along with the gain

By admin
February 22, 2012

By Doug Pinkerton, M.Ed.

Remember when we were kids and we preferred playing with our friends to playing alone? Whether we were riding bikes, playing baseball, hide & seek, or just hanging out at a friend’s house, it was always more fun, and sometimes imperative (in the case of team sports and board games) to have someone to share those moments. Now that we’re adults, many of us still prefer socializing over a solo approach to being physically active. For adults, exercising is more than fun and games, it’s necessary to our overall health, but many of us choose not make it a priority, because we still don’t enjoy “playing” alone. You know how the soliloquy goes, “It’s no fun walking by myself,” or “I get so bored riding my bike alone. If I just had someone to talk to it would make it so much easier!”

Social Contact – the great motivator.

Actually, it’s quite common for adults to prefer sharing the company of others while exercising. In fact, the underlying desire to share time with friends can be even stronger than the motivation to exercise for the health benefits. Every day more adults are walking, running, cycling, and swimming, or joining health clubs and exercise classes, not because they want to look like the guy on the cover of Men’s Health or the lady on Women’s Fitness Magazine, but because it’s a great way to spend quality time with family, friends or co-workers. Somehow knowing that there will be someone to talk to while enduring that eight mile run or the 30 minutes on the stationary bike makes it seem easier, faster, and more enjoyable than when it is done alone.
Exercise away the stress of the day.

Stress is an unavoidable part of everyday life for adults, and exercise can play a major role in helping us deal with it in a constructive way! Knowing we will be meeting our friends after work and spending 30 minutes or more talking, sharing, and laughing while we exercise, can help us get through the grind of the day. For many of us the combination of exercising and socializing encourages us to relax and to let go of the stress that can impact us negatively (both physically and mentally), if left unchecked. Having the encouragement and support of our fellow fitness seekers makes it easier to reach our own exercise goals. Also, successfully finishing a workout gives a sense of accomplishment and motivates us to want to continue our quest for better physical and mental health.

Just do it – for whatever reason.

The number of senior adults exercising is increasing every year. The experts tell us it is crucial to stay active, especially once we reach 50! I have been teaching a senior adult fitness class for 13 years, and there are several couples that have been in this class for over 15 years. Many of those who participate originally joined the class strictly for the physical benefits, and have found they really appreciate the time to socialize with friends and classmates. Others actually enjoy the social aspects of the class much more than the physical, but that’s okay, too, because for whatever the reason, they are keeping moving, and that results in their feeling much better and being healthier. There are several ladies in my class who can be chatting away while they are on the treadmills and not even realize they have exceeded their time. They actually forget they are exercising!

What are you waiting for?

With the start of the new year, it’s a great time to find an exercise “buddy,” or a class to join. You might be surprised how many other people are out there in need of someone to share their exercise time! It might require some schedule adjustments but it is definitely worth it. Your health is up to you, but having someone to share the time you spend exercising can make it much more pleasant and more productive! So what are you waiting for? Remember, no matter your age, and whether you’re getting your exercise on the playground or the treadmill, it’s always more fun when we have somebody to share it with!

Doug Pinkerton, M.Ed., is the Director of Recreation & Wellness, and a HPER Instructor, as well as the Cross Country coach at Delta State University, Cleveland, MS.

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