Why do you exercise?
Do you workout simply because you enjoy it?
Do you exercise to look your best in your favorite pair of skinny jeans?
Or, do you push yourself in your weekly sweat sessions because of the benefits it has regarding the health of your body?
No matter your reasons for working out, it’s a solid fact that exercise is essential. Your body needs movement to thrive and function in a healthy manner. And, there’s a long list of benefits to be gained from your efforts.
But, did you know that those benefits you gain from exercise could be amplified simply by making your private sweat session slightly more public?
No, we’re not suggesting you should broadcast your workouts, but getting in that needed movement with others (in a group setting) has been shown to bring far more benefits than simply getting in your morning jog or lunchtime weight lifting session all alone.
So, check out the following ways that group exercise can serve to boost the benefits of your workout…
The Science Behind The Benefits Of Group Exercise
There’s no denying the fact that exercise, no matter whether you sweat alone or with a group, benefits your health.
- Exercise can help you maintain or reach a healthy weight.
- It has been linked to reducing the threat of numerous diseases and health problems.
- Exercise has been shown to improve your mood.
- Your sleep patterns can improve with regular exercise.
- Even your energy levels can be benefited through regular exercise.
But, recent studies have focused on whether these wonderful benefits are the same for both group exercise and solo workouts, and the results are impressively intriguing.
One recent study focused on the benefits of group exercise in regards to mental health.
This particular study involved medical students due to the high stress nature of their field, and here researchers evaluated the students’ perceived stress levels as well as their mental, physical, and emotional health every four weeks during the twelve week experiment.
The participants were divided into three groups:
- one group participated in a 30 minute group exercise program at least once a week
- another group exercised alone or with no more than two partners at least twice a week
- the third group did not participate in any formal exercise, alone or in a group setting
After 12 weeks, it was the group of students who exercised at least once a week in a group setting that saw the greatest reduction in stress levels and the most improvement in all other qualities of life (mental, physical, and emotional health).
The group of participants who worked out alone, even though they exercised twice as much as the first group, only saw improvements in their mental health.
And, for comparison’s sake, the control group, those not participating in any exercise, saw no change in their stress levels or quality of life.
By the numbers, researchers estimated those in this study who exercised in a group setting lowered their stress levels by 26%, improved their mental health by 12%, physical health by 24%, and their emotional health by 26%, as opposed to those working out alone who saw no reduction in stress and only an 11% improvement in their mental health.
Other studies have been conducted concerning group exercise, and this research has focused on aspects such as social connection, pain tolerance, and physical performance.
One such study from 2013 examined a group of individuals after a 45 minute workout session on a rowing machine.
Their findings were as follows:
- Those individuals who rowed in groups and synchronized their movements had a greater pain tolerance than those participants who rowed alone. The hypothesis amongst researchers here is that pain tolerance increases due to a greater release of endorphins as people synchronize movements in group workout sessions.
- It is hypothesized that athletic performance increases in group settings due to synchronization as well.
In yet another study, in 2015, researchers studied a group of rugby players and their synchronized movements during a warm up exercise.
Here, it was discovered that those players who synced movements throughout the warm up performed better on a test of endurance that followed the warm up.
One hypothesis regarding this study is that these synchronized movements worked to reinforce social bonds already existing amongst the teammates. This then works to “change the athletes perception of pain and discomfort associated with fatigue, allowing participants to push harder and perform better,” according to the team of researchers (from the 2015 study in PLoS ONE).
So then, after seeing the results of these studies, let’s take a closer look at what group exercise really has to offer!
Group Exercise > Solo Workouts
Like it or not, we can all be impressionable. And, while this can lead to some cons in other areas of life, when it comes to group exercise, we’re seeing pros for days!
When we’re around others, their energy and attitudes can rub off on us. And, being involved in a group, where individuals collectively value the importance and benefit of exercise, can help you have a positive attitude towards exercise as well.
You can feel a greater sense of motivation and even be encouraged to view exercise as doable, or your goals achievable, when exercising with a group.
Slightly different than influence, and we did touch on this slightly above, group exercise can provide a greater sense of motivation than solo workouts.
The thing is, no matter your goals or intentions, there are some days or even seasons when you just don’t want to work out. And, for the most part, you can muster up the motivation to push through your desire to veg out in front of the television and get in your needed movement instead.
But, when working out in a group setting, you know you’ll be sweating alongside others with similar goals or simply the same desire to push through and improve the health of your body.
The added social interaction of group workouts can motivate you to keep on keeping on when some days you may otherwise lack the desire to exercise, and as you see others pushing themselves, you equally push yourself.
Okay, let’s piggyback one more time… True, influence, motivation, and accountability could all be lumped into one category, but they also each boast their own unique qualities, so we’re looking at these benefits individually.
The bottom line here, accountability is a proven method. Having someone to keep you accountable helps you to reach your goals and keeps you on track.
In weight loss programs, those who use the tool of accountability generally lose more weight than those who tackle the journey alone, and exercise is no different.
Those who participate in group exercise are afforded the benefit of accountability which can help you stick to your goals and achieve results faster than exercising alone.
4- Endurance & Performance
As we saw in the findings of the studies listed above, working out in a group setting can help you push through both pain and fatigue.
As you see those individuals alongside you pushing and enduring, you push and endure as well.
And, syncing your movements with the group can allow you perform better than you (technically) thought you could.
Have you ever heard the saying “your mind gives up before your body” when it comes to exercise? This is where working out in a group setting can help!
If you’ve ever ran long distances, you may have experienced times when your mind told you that you just couldn’t take another step. However, these same thoughts, when experienced on a group run or during a public race, can more easily be quieted as you sync your movements and keep moving with the group.
As your mood improves in the group, your movements sync, and your body pushes farther and harder than it does when you exercise alone.
5- Boosted Mood
Technically this involves more than just your mood, but when you workout in a group setting, studies show that your body releases a greater amount of endorphins.
Sure, exercise in and of itself can cause the release of endorphins, but group exercise amplifies this effect, thus allowing you to feel a greater surge of happiness from your efforts.
6- Lowered Stress Levels
Like that endorphin release, exercising alone can potentially serve to lower your stress levels, but studies have proven that exercising in a group setting serves to lower your stress levels even more!
Even when working out harder and longer, when you put in those efforts alone, your stress levels do not lower as much as those who exercise in a group setting.
And, in most group settings, workouts can truly be fun!
This seemingly simple (fun) element can keep you motivated, help you to push harder, and ultimately helps to boost your mental health while reducing the mounding stress in your life…and who wouldn’t benefit from a little bit of fun and a lot less stress?!
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