Reaping the Benefits of Social Exercising

June 24, 2016 - By: Sarah Hovis

Picture this: a solitary runner on a stretch of road with the horizon spreading out before him (or her)—running off into some unknown distance wearing an etched look of determination on his (or her) face. While a tad exaggerated, the lone wolf imagery is what most people outside of the sport think it’s all about. And while some do prefer to run alone, there are many benefits to social exercising. Just ask the members of the Detroit Downtown Runners & Walkers who recently celebrated over 30 years of group exercising. Every Tuesday night (rain or shine) in downtown Detroit, a mixed group of runners show up to log their four or six miles.

According to Brendan Cournane, a Chicago-based running coach, running with others can provide great accountability. And Cindra Kamphoff, Ph.D., a Certified Sport Psychology Consultant told RunnersWorld.com it can also motivate a runner to try a new distance, race, or other types of workouts. A runner can go from a 5K fun run and work up to a half marathon, which is a distance that has grown in popularity, especially among women. Detroit Free Press/Talmer Bank Marathon Executive Race Director Barb Bennage told the DetroitFreePress.com their current numbers show that 65 percent of their registered half-marathoners are women and 25 percent have never run that distance before. Detroit’s numbers track with what Running USA found in its 2015 Running USA Annual Half Marathon Report: women make up over 60 percent of the distance’s finishers. Rich Harshbarger, CEO of Running USA and former Detroit Free Press/Talmer Bank executive race director says the trend of more women participating in races is a healthy one.

“Women weren’t always taking care of themselves. They didn’t always make time for themselves because they were in other roles, as head of household and caregiver and career mom. But now, as they’ve discovered running and walking, they’re enjoying being fit and being social," Harshbarger explained.

Another benefit to social exercising is meeting new people, which can in turn increase a person's self confidence in social situations. After the Detroit Downtown Runners & Walkers log in their miles, they cap off the night socializing at local bars and eateries. As Ken Davenport, informal leader of the group said, “We all like being together or we wouldn’t be here.”

So while solo running does have its advantages, the positive peer pressure of social exercising falls in-line with the thinking weight-loss coaches and behavior-mod experts preach: stick to a health habit, make it public, and make friends doing it.

Tell us in the comments your favorite ways of exercising with others.