Our first lesson in preventative health happens in kindergarten when we are allocated a ‘buddy’ to do an activity, go to the bathroom, walk between classrooms or cross the road together. Buddies keep an eye on each other, look out for danger and yell for help if it is needed. Fast forward to life as an adult and many people are literally yelling for help with their bodies. Despite the prevalence of obesity and lifestyle diseases skyrocketing, just 2% of the Australian state and federal budget is spent on preventative health with the bulk of it spent on the treatment of disease. Of course, treatment of disease is vital and often urgent but far more costly than prevention. It is interesting that this type of imbalance also occurs within our own group of friends and family. When someone that we love or care for becomes seriously unwell or incapacitated everyone mobilizes to get them better or out of hospital and this clearly is key to their recovery and the crowded hospital system. Yet, how much time do we spend encouraging or enabling the same people to prevent sickness in the first place? The buddy system that we had as kids could be a very effective strategy to improve and maintain our health as adults. I love to exercise and while I invest time on a daily basis, I also know that I am not good left to my own devices. Despite my best intentions, my alarm clock and I are not the best of friends. I know that for my exercise routine to run smoothly and without incident, I need to have a weekly schedule of exercise sessions locked in and matched up with a buddy. Rachel, Belinda, Karin and Dave all have a special place in my week and they enable me to improve my fitness (hopefully I am doing the same for them too). Having an exercise buddy means increased motivation, faster progression (especially if they are faster or fitter than you), increased experimentation and knowledge, new and enhanced friendships and a good dose of fun. Having an exercise buddy is a powerful motivator because I don’t want to let them down. My buddies and I agreed from the outset that rain is just water and unless it is hailing or lightening is streaking across the sky, we are going. The added bonus of kicking off at the crack of dawn is that nobody else needs us. This is harder for those with young kids waking early but it could be an opportunity to combine strength training and cardio by pushing them in the pram. Choosing an exercise buddy should be considered with great care. If you get the initial check right, it could be a long and healthy relationship but if not, your health and friendships could suffer. What to look for in an exercise buddy
- Exercise goals that match
- Commitment – When exercising alone, it is too easy to take your foot off the pedal. Without a buddy it is easy to tell yourself “Having one day off won’t hurt” or “I don’t feel like it, I will give it a miss”. If your exercise buddy is already on their way to meet you or is counting on you, you’re far less likely to do something like that.
- Fitness level – It is essential that you choose someone at the same or slightly higher fitness level than you. My exercise buddies continually push me to go faster and harder which means improved fitness, strength and flexibility
- Time available – Ensure that you meet at a time with minimal distractions that suits both of you
Of course, the buddy system can be easily applied to any aspect of your health that you are wanting to improve not just exercise. I have come to realize that the value of an exercise buddy lies not just in health and fitness but can be so valuable in other areas of your life. Exercise buddies can spend a lot of time together over the journey and often talk about things other than exercise. ?Solving the issues of the world whilst enjoying the fresh air is medicine for the soul and lets not forget one of the greatest benefits, fun.