For seniors who are starting a new exercise routine, the working out can come with barriers to entry. These include things like health concerns and simply having no idea what exercises will work for you. Like anything else though, one of the biggest challenges is exercising long enough for it to become a habit.
According to one study, it takes an average of 66 days for an action to become a habit, which can feel like a long time. 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. And if that goal is exercising, one thing you can do to make forming that habit easier is to get a workout buddy. There are a number of benefits to working out with a buddy, even if your workout isn’t something where you should have a partner, like lifting.
In fact, working out doesn’t have to be strenuous exercise. Cooler temperatures are conducive to outdoor workouts. Simple activities like walking at a park or at a track are a great way to catch up with a friend. Plus, exercise won’t really feel like exercise. This is also a great way to make sure you’re keeping a safe distance that you likely wouldn’t get in a gym or indoor fitness class.
The other obvious benefit is having someone to hold you accountable. Making a schedule is helpful. Having someone else on that schedule with 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. 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. There are also national programs available to seniors (Active Living Every Day, EnhanceFitness, Silver Sneakers). Joining one of those can and participating, even remotely, can give you the boost you need to start exercising.