You know what’s better than working out solo? Working out with others.
Group exercise options range from taking instructor-led classes, such as kickboxing or spin, to signing up for a running group or meeting friends for a walk.
A new study published in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association found that group workouts had a more positive effect on physical and emotional wellbeing than working out alone. In fact, those who exercised in groups decreased their stress levels by 26%.
“There are social and supportive aspects of group fitness that aren’t experienced when exercising alone,” says lead researcher Dayna Yorks of the University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine. “Having a space where you can connect with other people, connect with your body in a positive way, be challenged and supported simultaneously and have fun is incredibly powerful.”
THE PHYSICAL BENEFITS
In addition to being a powerful stress reliever, group workouts offer physical benefits, too.
Research published in the journal Annals of Behavioral Medicine found those who worked out in a group exercised twice as long as those who exercised by themselves — and that could help you burn more calories and lose more weight. You’re also more apt to stick with an exercise program that involves a group.
In 2016, researchers reviewed data from 10 peer-reviewed studies and noted that group exercise improved social connectedness and fostered feelings of empowerment that led to greater workout adherence. Among the participants, almost 70% of those who exercised in groups stuck with their workout routines over the long term. The research was published in Preventive Medicine.
“Simply put, when we perform with a group, we generally do better than when we perform solo,” says Mark Aoyagi, PhD, a board member for the Association for Applied Sport Psychology.
The performance-enhancing benefits hold true whether you exercise with a group that depends on each other for success — like a team sport — or participate as an individual in the company of others, according to Aoyagi.
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Longer workouts could be attributed to the social support found in a group setting, according to a study published in the British Journal of Health Psychology. Researchers separated 223 participants into two groups: One group sought new exercise companions and the others exercised on their own. After eight weeks, the researchers found exercise partners offered emotional and social support as well as a companionship during a workout.
FRIENDS OR STRANGERS
You don’t need to find a new workout partner to reap the benefits. Yorks believes group workouts are beneficial whether you break a sweat with your BFF or take a fitness class with a group of strangers. The element of multi-tasking may also be important: Rather than choosing between socializing and working out, group exercise makes it possible to do both.
“There is a collective energy that’s generated when exercising with a group that is a motivating factor during exercise. Whether you know other people in class or not, taking class is still a shared experience, an opportunity to connect and have fun,” Yorks says. “Even if [you take] a half hour group exercise class 1–2 times a week, the benefits go far beyond physical.”
GEAR UP FOR YOUR NEXT WORKOUT