If you want to stay motivated to exercise, find a workout buddy, according to a Harvard expert.
Exercising with another person can help provide positive reinforcement and accountability.
That can help you stay committed to fitness, even if you have a natural aversion to the gym.
If you can't find the motivation to exercise, you're not alone. Even with countless studies on how exercise improves the health of our bodies, minds, and quality of life, 75% of people don't get enough physical activity, according to the CDC.
But despite our innate aversion to unnecessary activity, there are ways to find your gymspiration, according to Daniel Lieberman, a Harvard paleoanthropologist and author of "Exercised: Why Something We Never Evolved to Do is Healthy and Rewarding."
Lieberman told Insider that the biggest question facing his field is how to motivate people to exercise (not to mention the $100 billion fitness industry). His solution, both personally and professionally, is the buddy system.
"Nothing works as effectively as exercising with friends," Lieberman said.
Grabbing a partner or a group to hit the gym helps promote social bonding, camaraderie, and accountability around working out, all of which makes you more likely to stick to your workout routine.
Most of us need a little motivation to work out
Lieberman's research has shown that humans have major biological and cultural incentives to avoid exercise. That's because historically, it was important for our survival to avoid expending unnecessary energy, so we could dedicate our time to crucial tasks like finding food and passing on our genetics.
"For the vast majority of us, it's hard to exercise and we all have deep fundamental instincts to avoid unnecessary activity," he said.
Even folks who are consistent with their workout routine can struggle to find the intrinsic motivation to get moving.
"I went for a run this morning but spent half an hour complaining. It's as hard for me as for anyone else," he said.
As a result, Lieberman suggests that we can benefit from outside encouragement.
A workout buddy can provide positive reinforcement and accountability around exercise
Lieberman said social settings can nudge people toward exercise. For example, he takes the stairs at work, because as an exercise researcher, he wants to maintain his reputation among his peers.
"If anyone catches me taking the elevator, I'll be called out," he said.
However, that negative reinforcement can also backfire, as anyone with an overly-judgmental gym teacher or coach can attest to.
"It doesn't help to make people feel bad. We need to be compassionate," he said.
Working out with a friend (or a friendly group) offers an incentive for exercising, in the form of a rewarding social experience, as well as gentle discouragement from backing out on your fitness commitment.
Lieberman said he makes plans to go for a morning run with a friend, who keeps him accountable and makes the workout itself more fun.
"I know my friend's going to be there at 6 am and if I don't go, he'll be pissed. So I show up, and we always do enjoy it at the end," he said.
Technology can help you connect with workout buddies, too
The global pandemic has complicated our ability to get social while we work out, paving the way for products and brands that connect us virtually. That's part why success of fitness tech is booming, as companies like Peloton capitalize on thriving online communities.
While technology isn't a total fix for fitness, and can sometimes worsen exercise inequality, it's a helpful tool to get more people moving, according to Lieberman.
"If we can use it to help people get started, to make it rewarding, and connect people with exercise buddies, we should do anything that works," he said.
Read the original article on Insider