For seniors who are starting a new exercise routine, the working out can come with barriers to entry like health concerns and simply having no idea what exercises will work for you. Like any other habit, one of the biggest challenges is sticking with exercise long enough that it becomes second nature.
According to one study, it takes an average of 66 days for an action to become a habit. This can feel like a long time, making it difficult to even begin. Plus, this number isn’t a hard limit—it varies from person to person.
However, with some conscious effort, you can turn an action into a habit. If that goal is exercising, one thing you can do to make forming that habit easier is finding a buddy. There are a number of benefits to working out with a buddy. You don’t even need to be doing an exercise where you should have a partner, like lifting.
The most obvious benefit is having someone to hold you accountable. Making a schedule is one place to start. Having someone else on that same schedule alongside you can help you stick to it even better. It’s harder to skip out on exercising when you don’t want to let someone down. Though guilt shouldn’t be your biggest motivator, accountability is a great way to stay on track to forming a habit.
Another benefit is that exercising with a friend gives you a way to alleviate loneliness. We may not all acknowledge it, but getting older can be isolating. Something like going to a class with a friend or meeting up with a neighbor to take a walk around your neighborhood can provide some needed social interaction. Plus, venting and sharing stories means you’ll be working toward physical AND emotional wellness.
Finally, one of the hidden benefits of working out with a friend is that you’ll probably exercise longer and harder than you would alone. Studies have shown that getting active with a friend encourages both of you to work harder. People who have a buddy even burn up to 41 extra calories on average!
Always be sure to check with your doctor before starting a new exercise routine. If you want to take a community-based approach and get a workout buddy to hold you accountable, community hubs like senior centers and libraries may have information about classes you can take. There are also national programs available to seniors (Active Living Every Day, EnhanceFitness, Silver Sneakers) and joining one of those can give you the boost you need to start exercising safely in a community setting.