Can exercise be social?

Jul 18, 2013
Tagged with: Can exercise be social?

I have a confession to make. I hate when people talk to me at the gym, or when I’m running, really when I’m doing any sort of high intensity exercise. I’m trying to work hard, I’m sweaty and smelly and I probably don’t have the extra oxygen to talk to you. In this situation, my exercise is NOT a social event.

I have another confession to make. I love talking to people while I walk. When I walk to and from school every day I usually have a friend or family member on the phone, and when I have an hour or so of daylight left after supper, you can usually find me walking around the neighborhood while I’m on the phone. Walking helps me process my thoughts, and it can make a tough conversation easier. It took my boyfriend about 3 “serious conversations” to figure out that when I say “would you like to go for a walk?” its code for “hey, we need to talk.”

Now, here’s how these two things are related. When I talk about “exercise” I mean the sweaty, stinky, breathing hard, anti-social event. But when I say “physical activity” that’s my walking, talking, social time. I don’t think I’ve ever really seen someone successfully do “exercise” and be social. There’s the time spent getting ready, and maybe going for a meal or hanging out afterward, but that’s not really being social while you exercise. I’ve seen a lot of people do “physical activity” and be social, like golfing, walking, playing corn-hole and so on.

So who cares? Why am I going on about this still? Here’s why: researchers have found that the social aspects of exercise are very important for mental health, AND that moderate physical activity is AS GOOD AS antidepressants for mild depression and anxiety. So, put those two pieces of evidence together, and it makes me think that it may be more important to have social physical activity that anti-social high-intensity exercise.

What do you think? I find the balance by exercising a few times a week, and doing a lot of social physical activity the rest of the time. Do you enjoy a social physical activity? Are you an anti-social exerciser like me? I’d like to know!

Author: Susan Silverman



  • bobl07

    I am with you Susan! I like to be left alone! The less disturbance, the more intense the exercise.

  • Elizabeth Vander Kamp

    Susan, what a great conversation you have started! I like both socializing and being alone to really focus. As a movement teacher, I like facilitating socialization as part of exercise and then facilitating breath and awareness so that people have a chance to focus internally as well.