Get Motivated: The Workout You Won't Cancel

friends motivated for exerciseKaren Stein was feeling angry with herself. She had started a new job, with a demanding travel schedule that caused her to add unwanted pounds. As winter ended, Stein* felt so unhappy about her weight gain that she resisted when her friend, Susan Mosher*, tried to get her outdoors for physical activity.

That might have been the end of the story. But Stein, 37, and Mosher, 41, are exercise buddies as well as friends. They had started exercising together as co-workers and continued after the company that employed them had folded. For nearly five years now, except in the dead of winter, the two Pennsylvania women meet at least once a week (more often in summer), to walk a five-mile loop in a park near their homes.

According to Stein, her exercise buddy wouldn't let her stay depressed and inactive. Mosher finally convinced her to lace up her sneakers and head for the park.

"We just started going again and it worked itself out," says Stein, who lost nearly all the extra weight. "She was a huge part of me taking it off."

How buddies help

There's strength in numbers, the old saying goes, and that's especially true for many women when it comes to exercising. Social support encourages physical activity. An exercise buddy (or two) makes such support even more personal. If you decided to become more active this year, having an exercise buddy may help you achieve and maintain that goal.

"Exercise partners can provide a kind of gentle coercion and limit your negative self-talk," says Barbara A. Brehm, Ed.D., professor, Department of Exercise and Sport Studies, at Smith College in Northampton, MA. Forget making excuses about why you're too tired or too busy to exercise. When you're scheduled to meet a friend for exercise, Brehm says, "you'll avoid that debate in your head about whether you should go and work out."

The buddy system keeps boredom away and makes time pass quickly. Many exercise partners talk as they walk (walking is a popular buddy exercise). The miles or kilometers seem to disappear more rapidly while chatting with a companion than they do when you're exercising alone, focusing on every step or minute.

"I can go on a two-mile walk by myself, but I don't like anything longer," Mosher says. Yet when she walks five miles with Stein, "before you know it, you're done!"