Yes, Running Really Does Do a Bond Good

The chemicals released when exercising are the same that can increase your bond with someone when you do it together.

A study out of the University of Oxford found that exercise can help people bond—and by exercising together, their workout performance can be enhanced. “When we exercise, our bodies release chemicals (endogenous opioids and endocannabinoids) that relieve stress and pain, and give us positive feelings, which are often called ‘the runner’s high,’” says study author Arran Davis, Ph.D. “When people exercise together, including mothers and daughters, they feel these positive emotions together, and that might make them feel happier and closer to one another, helping them to cooperate and interact in ways that strengthen their social bonds,” he adds.

The Upside of Keeping It Conversational

Running with a person whose company you enjoy can provide physical benefits in addition to mental and emotional benefits, says running coach Angie Spencer of The Marathon Training Academy. “A conversational pace is a pace that you can maintain while saying a few words to a sentence at a time (without getting overly short of breath),” she explains. “This pace can be the perfect way to build up or maintain the endurance systems of the body and can be a great time to work on relaxing and improving your running form.”

Finding Your Shared Rhythm

“Running with someone who runs at a different pace can be both enjoyable and beneficial if it’s done right,” says Spencer. “While I wouldn’t recommend doing every training run together if your paces vary widely, a regular and intentional run together can be great.” Here’s what to keep in mind, no matter which side of the pacing coin you find yourself on.

  • If you’re the faster runner: You can benefit from doing your easy-paced runs with a slower partner because it will help you truly slow down, says Spencer. “Most runners do their easy runs too fast, and this can hinder recovery and prevent them from getting the most out of their faster days.”
  • If you’re the slower runner: You can benefit from doing your speed work with a faster partner because it can help you push yourself harder than you might on your own, says Spencer. “Ask the faster runner to help keep you at a specific pace and to give you words of encouragement and motivation,” she says. But, Spencer warns: “Do not try to run faster during an easy run to keep up with a faster partner. This can delay recovery and could possibly lead to injury if running form is compromised.”