Stick With Your Fitness Goals: The Benefits of an Accountability Partner
Do you feel unmotivated today? Have you found yourself repeatedly saying, "I'll skip my workout just one more time" or "I'll get back on my diet tomorrow"? Are you having trouble sticking with your wellness routine? If so, you aren't alone.
And therein lies the secret — you aren't alone, and your exercise, weight loss, or self-care journey doesn't have to be a solo journey. Instead of trying to bust through your mental rut and achieve your goals by yourself, it may be time to call a friend and partner up with a workout buddy, otherwise known as an accountability partner.
The Benefits of a Fitness or Nutrition Accountability Partner
Setting a goal — and especially a S.M.A.R.T. goal — is important.
But what's far more critical is how you follow through. After all, the proverbial road to a slimmer, stronger, and healthier you is paved with good intentions. It's no wonder that statistically, most people give up within eight to 10 weeks of getting started.
While there are many behavioral change models, with each model advising different tricks like hiding the junk food or rewarding yourself after the gym, researchers warn that most models are missing the accountability piece.
Today, a growing body of research shows how your commitment to your fitness, self-care, or diet changes dramatically when you have a trusted partner by your side:
- People are 65% more likely to meet a goal when they have an accountability partner and are 95% more likely to succeed when they regularly check in with their partner,
- People who start a diet with a weight loss buddy lose more inches around their waist and drop more pounds than those who try a diet on their own.
- A married individual who starts a new health habit with their spouse is more successful than if they didn't have their spouse join their health journey.
Achieving your health goals, whatever they may be, takes time, hard work, and commitment. It's easy to lose your motivation over time, and that's when being held accountable can keep you focused on your long-term goals.
"Most people fail to change when they try to do it on their own," explains neuroscience and behavioral change expert Gustavo Razzetti. "Peer-to-peer support increases your chances of success. [...] An accountability partner is your duo. This reciprocal relationship complements your skills. It’s about two people who meet as equals to provide each other with feedback and support."
Making Accountability Work For You: What to Look For in a Workout Buddy or Weight Loss Partner
1. They Should Be a Visible Part of Your Life
You don't have to go to the gym together at the same time every day, but this person should ideally be a part of your daily life—specifically, a part of your life where you need the most accountability.
For example, do you find it tricky to stick with your diet when you're at work? The American Council on Exercise recommends finding a coworker who has similar diet goals as you and helping each other stay true to your diet when in the office or at work functions.
2. They Should Have Compatible Wellness Goals
Having an accountability partner is a two-way street. They aren't just supporting you; you're also supporting them. It's this mutually beneficial relationship that drives your mutual success, so it's key that you both have compatible goals.
These might be identical goals, such as both of you wanting to practice more yoga and self-care.
Or, it might be different goals that require similar habits. For instance, you might want to increase your cardio endurance while your friend might be wanting to lose a couple of pounds — you'll be perfect treadmill buddies!
However, radically different goals (e.g., bodybuilding and weight gain versus cardio and weight loss, or endurance goals versus stretching and flexibility goals) create too much disparity between the two of you for true accountability.
3. They Should Be At a Similar Wellness or Fitness Level As You
It's okay if one of you is slightly "closer" to your individual goals.
For example, pairing up with someone who is a bit slimmer than you, or can deadlift a few more pounds in the gym, can actually be very motivating.
But if your potential partner is far more advanced in their exercise or weight loss journey, it can be discouraging for you and not motivating for them.
4. They Should Be Willing to Check-In With You Daily
For this to work, you both should be clear on your partnership agreement:
- Share your goals
- Acknowledge what challenges you face, including days, times, or settings where you're most tempted to take a break or give up on your routine
- Agree to check in with each other daily
- Agree to respond to each other's text, email, or phone call if one of you is facing a hurdle, temptation, or obstacle
"Be generous with moral support and encouragement," suggests Linda Wasmer Andrews, who holds her master's in health psychology. Wasmer Andrews also suggests that you both clarify what excuses are acceptable. For example:
- What's a valid reason for breaking your diet? (e.g., family gathering, a holiday, etc.)
- What's a valid reason for skipping a workout? (e.g., illness, injury, etc.)
No Partner? No Problem!
If you don't have anyone in your immediate circle of friends, family, or colleagues that meet the above criteria, you can still tap into the general idea of accountability and peer-to-peer support.
Find ways to publicly acknowledge your goals so that others, including strangers, can help hold you accountable. Just knowing that others are aware of your goals and that they'll notice if you fail can be very motivating.
"Research shows that social networking sites such as Facebook, Instagram, and health-specific platforms can help people change their behaviors," explains the National Academy of Sports Medicine. The organization, which oversees the certifications of many fitness professionals in the United States, points to numerous studies that show how social media may:
- Increase your success of changing your health
- Boost your weight loss goals
- Encourage increased physical activity
- Increase the probability of successfully changing your daily behaviors
Other options for building more accountability into your life include:
- Using a fitness or diet tracking app
- Working with a personal trainer or health coach
- Finding like-minded people online, such as on platforms like MeetUp