Ploughing through medical school — learning, studying, reviewing, celebrating after the exam — the whole process is made easier by our peers who understand what we are going through and who can provide moral support through the tough days. Even on the wards, the art of medicine has been evolving toward more of a team approach with health care providers contributing different aspects of care to achieve the “patient-centered model.”
This method can be used for more than just the academic portion of medicine. Most medical students are well aware of the benefits of exercise, but lack the motivation (and time) to do so. My suggestion? Do it with a friend! Here are six reasons why getting a workout buddy can help you achieve your workout goals, while enjoying the experience.
1. You’re more accountable. Scheduling a run or gym class with a friend will greatly increase your odds of getting out and exercising. By yourself, it’s easy to give in with “but I should also study…” Going with a friend keeps you accountable. You are less likely to back out last minute when you know someone else has modified their schedule to meet you.
2. You work harder. Maybe it’s the competition, as you don’t want to be heaving lower weights than your lifting buddy. Maybe in order to keep up that conversation on your run, you are more motivated to keep pace with your partner. Whatever the reason, research confirms that exercising with a buddy often yields better results.
3. You last longer. Sometimes you don’t want to admit to your workout partner that you’re tired and want to stop, so you push on. Sometimes you’re so absorbed in a conversation that you’re no longer counting the minutes until your exercise is supposed to end, and achieve more than you ever have on your own.
4. Your workouts become more varied. When at the gym myself, it’s easy for me to cling to the standing bike, an exercise that has become comfortable to me and allows me to study at the same time. As everyone has different exercises they do and do not enjoy, working out with a friend can help diversify workout routines and remove one from his or her comfort zone. The variation helps improve different muscle groups and the challenge yields better results.
5. You are no longer bored. Some find exercise boring. Playing a pick-up game with a friend can be exhilarating and get the blood pumping if you are less interested in exercising yourself.
6. You have more fun! My best friends in medical school are the ones with whom I exercise. During our runs, we give each other undivided attention, and really listen to each other’s problems and goals. And your regular workout buddy is in tune with the happenings in your life—it’s nice to have someone check in on you on a daily basis. Studies have found that people are more likely to enjoy their workouts when they are in the company of friends.
Many of you may have a friend who works out regularly. If so, tag along with them. If you’re having trouble finding an exercise buddy, check to see if your school has any athletic clubs, or join a local gym, running group or pick-up league. Students at my medical school started a “Pacemakers” running club in our freshman year. Motivated by each other, we went on more and more runs, culminating in 20 students, some of whom had never run before, completing half or full marathons! Needless to say, there is power in numbers. Finding a buddy may be all you need to achieve your exercise goals.
Running on the toe-path
Feeling exhilarated after one early morning run on the toe-path, I was inspired to capture the moment in a poem. The toe path runs through Johnson Park, minutes away from Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. On it, my friends and I have countless memories of friendship, unburdening, sharing, discussing and even one engagement!
Running along the sparkling water
Feet pounding rhythmically against the dirt road
Cool breeze rushing in our faces
Chatting about our feelings, religion, right and wrong
I think we’ve covered all topics
And I feel happy to be able to share my thoughts with you
And to receive yours in return
I can run for hours
Alone I would have given up
Before I started
But our conversation
Makes me forget the ache in my feet
I cherish these mornings
There is nothing better
Than improving our bodies
Clearing our minds
Building our friendship
The further I progress in my medical training, the more passionately I believe that exercise is the best preventive medicine. In this column, I share research regarding exercise as medicine, ways medical students can incorporate exercise into their daily routines, poetry on positive exercise experiences, and highlights on how doctors in the community are using exercise as a means to treat their patients.