Could “exercise gossip” increase motivation?

When it comes to exercise, it seems that “sharing is caring!”

In fact, a new study shines light on how important it may be to have an exercise buddy.

Or, at the very least, someone to talk to about exercise goals.

Let’s take a look…

Let’s work together

A recent randomized controlled trial, published in JAMA Network Open, compared self-motivation against the “buddy system” when it comes to setting fitness goals.

It turns out, seniors who talk with their peers about their exercise routine or goals were more successful in sustaining physical activity levels.

Researchers looked at over 300 participants, 70 and older, who were not routinely physically active. Subjects were provided a wearable fitness tracker and an exercise program before being randomly assigned to one of four groups that used:

  1. Intrapersonal (self-motivated) strategies
  2. Interpersonal (group-motivated) strategies
  3. Both intrapersonal and interpersonal strategies
  4. Neither intervention (control group)

(Intrapersonal strategies included setting personal goals, like increasing one’s daily step count and holding oneself accountable. Whereas interpersonal strategies consisted of talking amongst group members to sustain an exercise routine. Members tended to learn, experiment, and problem-solve together.)

Participants were instructed to meet up and discuss their progress across groups for eight weeks before continuing with their behavior change strategy for the remainder of the year.

Ultimately, the interpersonal group showed a significant increase in overall physical activity for one year—whether it was light, moderate, or vigorous.

More specifically, on average, they spent an additional 21-28 minutes exercising—and boosted step counts by 776-1,058.

On the other hand, those in the intrapersonal group didn’t show any significant changes in total physical activity.

(Remember that maintaining mobility as we age is crucial to health and longevity. In fact, a lack of physical activity among older adults is associated with disability, falls, and injuries.)

Encourage one another

Did you know there’s a name for this? It’s called the social facilitation theory and it was discovered in the 1800s. It simply means that people will increase their efforts if someone is watching. And it doesn’t matter if that “someone” is real, imagined, or implied.

It makes sense…

Humans like to build relationships, feel connected, and more. Why would exercise be any different?

So, let’s talk fitness classes: I’m not saying that simply being in the same room as others is enough. Rather, it’s taking a little extra time to talk to at least one peer about the class, your exercise goals, anything.

Perhaps you acknowledge someone’s progress in the class, disclose that you’re struggling, or show up with the goal to encourage and support those around you.

Let me give you an example of this…

At my personal training gym, there are four to six of us who exercise during the same time slot. We didn’t know each other when we began. But now, several months later, we encourage one another, acknowledge difficulties, and hold each other accountable for hitting exercise goals. We even miss each other when someone doesn’t show up!

Not to mention, a relative newcomer to our group announced she was 76 when she walked through the door. (Yes, you read that right!) We applauded her and she went straight to work.

She later disclosed she struggles with squatting. Well, she persisted and we egged her on. Just recently, she made it three-fourths of the way down. What an accomplishment! (We took her out for breakfast after to celebrate!)


“This Could Be Key to Motivating Older Patients to Exercise.” Medscape, 03/27/2024. (