Project Body Smart | Why the Buddy System Works So Well


Why the Buddy System Works So Well

Why the Buddy System Works So Well

At 73, Carolyn Weaver found herself at a crossroads last summer.

Years of spinal trouble and chronic pain had left her too weak to walk to the car alone, let alone drive.

“Everybody was really sweet – ‘Let’s take care of Nana,’ ” the retired midwife recalls. “But I didn’t want to be that old yet. I still wanted to have a life.”

So Carolyn (above right) started going to a fitness studio twice a week for small group training, which she liked right away.

But things took off when she invited her longtime friend, Karen Merritt (above left), to join her. Now both are stronger, more limber and have better endurance. And they enjoy a tradition of working out twice a week together and going for lunch on Fridays at their favorite Thai restaurant.

They’re proof positive that the buddy system works.

How to encourage exercise success

While some people enjoy working out alone, others find working out with a friend increases their chances of success because:

  • They find it’s more fun.
  • They hold each other accountable.
  • They give each other positive feedback and encouragement.
  • It’s a great social outlet and helps them overcome any nervousness about starting to work out.

Dr. Pamela Rackow of the University of Aberdeen had heard anecdotal evidence of all this. “I wanted to know if this was true,” she said – and if it was, then why.

Her research found that having an exercise companion does, indeed, increase the amount of exercise someone does. And the best qualities that made a good partner had more to do with emotional support than “practical” support like never missing a session.

Other tips for being a good workout partner include:

  • Sticking to a list of valid excuses for missing a workout
  • Staying positive
  • Avoiding judgment and sugarcoating alike
  • Supporting healthy eating
  • Celebrating positive milestones

‘It would almost force me’

You can see all of that in Carolyn and Karen.

Karen, 60, is a retired medical assistant. She spent the last several years as a caregiver to her mother and sister.

“In between taking care of everybody else, I didn’t have much time for myself,” she says.

That included spending time with friends. So joining Carolyn at the gym was a way to practice self-care and enjoy social interaction. She wanted to get stronger for the physical work of keeping up her 15-acre farm.

“The buddy system is the reason I decided to do this with Carolyn,” she says. “I knew that going with her, it would almost force me.”

She and Carolyn motivate each other but aren’t competitive.

“It’s like you have a date with this person and you don’t want to let them down,” Carolyn says.

Both women enjoy the full-body workouts involving strength training, stretching and balance exercises, and they say they feel better in every way.

“I like the way I feel,” Carolyn says, with confidence she can enjoy playing with her grandchildren, cook family meals, and travel to the beach.

“I wasn’t ready to be done with life, and I wanted to be able to do certain things. I have an appreciation for the smaller things that you take for granted when you’re younger.

“I’m glad I got better, so now I can have some more fun. I highly recommend it.”

Senior man jogging on treadmill.

HIIT Happens to Be Excellent for Active Adults

Have you heard about High-Intensity Interval Training and wondered what HIIT’s all about?

Or noticed joggers or walkers sporadically speeding up for short bouts?

HIIT is a great way to make the most of aerobic exercise, and although it has media buzz, it’s not just a trend.

It’s also not only for “the young and healthy,” the Mayo Clinic says. “Researchers have found that HIIT can improve health and fitness for just about everyone and has even bigger benefits for older adults.”

During a HIIT workout, you go back and forth between working hard and taking it easy.

The Mayo Clinic cites just one study that shows walkers improved aerobic fitness, leg strength and blood pressure just by alternating between three minutes of fast walking and three minutes of slow walking – for 30 minutes, four times a week.

Their results were better than others who walked twice as long but at a slower, consistent pace.

It’s even better news for people over 65. The Mayo Clinic says age-related deterioration of muscle cells has actually been reversed.

And AARP says that varying short bursts of fast walking with longer bouts of strolling helps:

  • Lower inflammation
  • Improve blood pressure
  • Slow aging
  • Reduce the risk of many diseases

Come try HIIT on a treadmill or other equipment, and let us answer any questions you might have about whether this is right for you.

Healthy Recipe: Macaroni with Sausage & Ricotta

This quick and healthy pasta recipe serves six. You can use any tubular pasta with it to satisfy the need for yummy comfort food.


  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 tablespoons finely chopped yellow onion
  • 6 ounces mild pork sausage, casings removed
  • 1 14-ounce can no-salt-added whole peeled tomatoes, chopped, with their juice
  • ¼ teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt plus 1 tablespoon, divided
  • 12 ounces thin tube-shaped pasta, such as pasta al ceppo
  • 6 tablespoons part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 10 fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese


  1. Put 2 quarts of water on to boil in a large pot.
  2. Meanwhile, combine oil, onion and sausage in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring and crumbling the sausage with a spoon, until the onion is golden, 4 to 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, pepper and 1/8 teaspoon salt; cook until the tomatoes have reduced and separated from the oil, 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat.
  3. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon salt to the boiling water, stir in pasta and cook according to package instructions until just tender.
  4. Just before the pasta is done, return the sauce to medium-low heat. Add ricotta and basil and stir until combined. When the pasta is done, drain well and toss with the sauce and Parmigiano. Serve at once.

Nutrition Facts

Calories: 362

Fat: 12g

Cholesterol: 16mg

Sodium: 441mg

Carbohydrates: 48g

Fiber: 3g

Protein: 15g

Potassium 276mg


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