Individuals Who Exercise In Groups Reap More Health Benefits

Any type of exercise is beneficial, but working out in a group may provide an added boost. Do you like to work out alone at the gym, on the road, or on the trail?

Do you prefer a busy group exercise session where everyone is breathing, moving, and toning at the same time? There’s no drawback to remaining physically active, no matter what form of exercise you prefer – especially with so many Americans falling behind.

Governmental responsibility for national exercise guidelines is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). However, evidence reveals that if you prefer to exercise alone, you may be losing out on some of the health benefits of group exercises.

 

Workouts in groups vs. solo

Workouts in groups vs. solo
Workouts in groups vs. solo

Exercise has long been known to provide numerous mental health advantages, including improved sleep and mood, increased sex desire, and increased energy and mental alertness.

Researchers in a recent study investigated whether group exercise could benefit medical students, a high-stress group that could benefit from frequent exercises.

69 medical students participated in one of three workout groups for the study. At least once a week, one group participated in a 30-minute group core strengthening and functional fitness training program, with additional activity if desired. Another group were solo exercisers, who worked out at least twice a week on their own or with up to two partners.

Exercise has long been known to provide numerous mental health advantages, including improved sleep and mood, increased sex desire, and increased energy and mental alertness.

 

Researchers in a recent study investigated whether group exercise could benefit medical students, a high-stress group that could benefit from frequent exercises.

69 medical students participated in one of three workout groups for the study. At least once a week, one group participated in a 30-minute group core strengthening and functional fitness training program, with additional activity if desired. Another group were solo exercisers, who worked out at least twice a week on their own or with up to two partners.

Students were also given the option of choosing their own workout group, thus physical or personality variations between group and solo exercisers may have influenced the outcomes.

As a result, the findings should be treated with caution. However, the study suggests that working out with others can be beneficial.

 

Synchronized workouts

Other studies have looked at how group exercise, specifically working out in time, affects social bonding, pain tolerance, and athletic performance. Researchers recruited people to row for 45 minutes in a study published in the International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology in 2013.

People who had rowed in groups — and synced their actions — had a higher pain tolerance than solo rowers after the session. Whether people were rowing with teammates or strangers, their pain tolerance increased. Researchers believe that the enhanced pain tolerance is due to a higher release of endorphins, or “feel good” hormones, as a result of people exercising in sync with one another.

Behavioral synchrony is the term for this type of coordinated movement. It can also happen in other group activities like play, religious ceremonies, or dancing.

It may also help you perform better, especially if you’re already friendly with the other members of the group.

Researchers discovered that rugby players who coordinated their motions while warming up scored better on a follow-up endurance test in a 2015 study published in PLoS ONE. These sportsmen have previously been a part of a close-knit rugby squad. The researchers believe that the synchronized movements during the warm-up strengthened their already strong social relationships.

“This may have affected athletes’ perceptions of the pain and discomfort associated with tiredness,” the researchers write. Participants were able to push themselves harder and perform better as a result.”

You might be able to tap into the power of synchronicity when you’re surrounded by other cyclists spinning in time to steady rhythms or CXWORX like it’s a choreographed dance. Or maybe not.

Synchronized workouts
Synchronized workouts

All group courses are not made equal

 

Paul Estabrooks, PhD, a behavioral health professor at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, discovered that “exercise environment” influences how much exercise affects quality of life, social relationships, physical advantages, and people’s motivation to exercise.

Estabrooks and his colleagues looked examined 44 prior research that compared the advantages of different exercise environments in a 2006 review published in Sport and Exercise Psychology Review.

Home exercises, either alone or with the assistance of a health professional; standard exercise courses; and “real group” classes, in which unique tactics were utilized to create social bonding among participants.

The most advantages came from true group classes. Standard exercise classes — without the added bonding — were similar to at-home exercise with help. The last option was to exercise alone at home.

The greater the advantages, in general, the more interaction or social support people received during exercise — from researchers, health professionals, or other exercise participants.

“Group-based exercise sessions are often only more effective when they incorporate group dynamics tactics,”

Setting group goals, exchanging comments, conversing with other students in the class, integrating friendly competition, and incorporating “activities to help people feel like they are part of something — a sense of individuality” are all examples of this. This isn’t something you’ll find in every exercise class.

“This isn’t normally the case in most group fitness sessions,” Estabrooks explained, “where people show up, follow a teacher, don’t say much to one another, and then leave.”

Although group fitness courses may provide additional benefits, not everyone is a fan of spin, body sculpt, or power yoga. Extraverts are more likely than introverts to favor group-based and high-intensity physical activities, according to one study. There’s no big surprise there.

I’m an introvert who teaches yoga to groups. However, I almost never enroll in group classes. I prefer to practice at home by myself. Yoga, for me, is about quiet and introspection – and I say that as an introvert. Others, on the other hand, may find yoga to be more about community and social interaction.

 

Finally, remaining active is preferable to being sedentary.

So, whether it’s cramming yourself into a sweaty exercise class or trekking alone in the woods, find a physical activity that you enjoy and stay with it.

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