Exercising alone: Benefits go beyond fitness gains

Whether by choice or due to lockdowns, solo workouts have numerous health benefits. Here’s how to stay motivated to make the most of this time alone.

Physiotherapist and sports trainer Dr Jonathan Bae says introverts and extroverts need some time to themselves.

“Working out alone can help clear your mind, relieving stress through reflection and physical activity,” Tensegrity Sports Clinic’s Dr Bae says.

Results from a 2019 study show younger adults generally prefer to exercise alone to achieve fitness goals, whereas older adults prefer to exercise with others.

But given the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent restrictions on group exercise, there has never been a better time to settle on a solo exercise routine to boost your physical and mental wellbeing.

Fitness Energy owner, exercise scientist and run coach Jane Kilkenny mostly trains solo.

“I love to go for a run by myself because it gives me the opportunity to unwind and solve problems,” Jane says.

“Solo exercise sessions are a great way to lift your mood and balance your emotions.

“We can’t always rely on others for support, and solo exercise is a great tool to help us through difficult times.”

Results from a 2020 study in Belgium on exercising in times of lockdown point to a need for adults aged 55 and older to be encouraged to keep exercising even with restrictions in place, given the health risks connected with physical inactivity.

Work out alone to a routine that suits

While working out with a friend can be motivating, it can also prevent you from catering to your own needs.

Perhaps you pull back as your pal isn’t as fit, or you’re left gasping for air trying to keep up.

“Working out alone allows you to set your own pace to achieve your goals and avoid injury without being rushed or pressured by others,” Dr Bae says.

You are also free to experiment with new activities.

“You might find your favourite workout involves racking up serious sprints up your driveway or busting a move to old-school aerobics videos,” he says.

And feeling sheepish that nothing raises your heart rate other than some cheesy power ballads or 1980s hair metal?

You’re boss DJ when exercising solo, which can lead to fitness gains.

How to stay motivated working out alone

If you’re someone who needs to be held accountable for your goals, it can be challenging to keep up your routine when going it alone.

“The best ways to stay motivated when training by yourself is to set your goals for the session and focus on achieving them without distraction,” Jane says.

She recommends following a training plan and recording your results so you can track your progress.

How to avoid injury working out solo

There are some types of workouts you should not attempt alone, such as lifting heavy weights without a partner to spot you.

Yet even a walk around the block can be the cause of injury.

“Based on the types of injuries we see in our clinics, there is definitely a higher chance of injury when working out alone,” Dr Bae says.

“We often see low-impact solo activities like walking, swimming and running causing small injuries that turn into more serious issues when left untreated.”

Dr Bae says there is also an injury risk to group exercise or contact sports, especially after a period of inactivity.

“This could be due to the pressure of keeping up or that our bodies just aren’t used to the high impact,” he says.

Why you should mix up your solo workout

It is worth noting that even the most ardent lone exerciser can benefit from buddying up now and then.

“It’s so important to have both options in your week,” Jane says.

“Time with family and friends is crucial for health, and making exercise a part of that time together only increases the benefits.”

Written by Samantha Allemann.