A University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine study found big benefits to joining workout classes versus solo workouts. The small study tracked nearly 70 medical students over 12 weeks because they are a group known for being pretty stressed out with a lower quality of life based on the hours they pull.
They were split into three teams. A group exercise team participated in one core and strength class a week together. Others worked out on their own. A control group didn’t exercise at all other than walking or biking to work which was already part of their daily routine. Those who teamed up for group exercise reduced stress levels 26% more than the other groups. They also reported improved quality of life and physical health improved by nearly 25%.
By comparison, on average study participants working out individually worked out twice as long, and saw no significant changes in any measure, except a slight uptick in mental health improvement (11 percent increase). The control group also saw no real improvements in physical, mental or emotional health.
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Having a set plan with measurable goals may have also improved outcomes for the group exercise team. Individual participants were given the flexibility to pick any exercise routine of their choice and were allowed to workout alone or with no more than two partners.
“The communal benefits of coming together with friends and colleagues, and doing something difficult, while encouraging one another, pays dividends beyond exercising alone,” said Dayna Yorks, DO, lead researcher on this study.
This isn’t the first study to show the upside to group fitness. Past research shows when people work out together they are more likely to stick to goals and complete weight-loss programs.
“I think the camaraderie and sense of community you feel within a group setting vs. just doing your own thing — endorphins are released no matter what, but when you have an inspiring sense of community around you the results are even more evident,” says celebrity trainer Kira Stokes and creator of The Stoked Method. “It can do wonders for your mood and allow you to work even harder.”
By no stretch do the pros of working out with a crew mean you should avoid riding solo for a solid episode of sweat. Stokes warns that sometimes when elements of competition are introduced into group workouts, it can make some people “feel defeated vs. feeling successful.”
“There are moments where working out on your own and being 100% focused on yourself and your thoughts can be incredibly therapeutic. Running is my moving meditation,” says Stokes. “You have your own goal and knowing you can achieve it on your own is equally therapeutic. You need to know you can do it on your own and that you aren’t 100% relying on other people. Finding the right mix of group and individual workouts is key to seeing the results you want to see and still feeling confident in your own abilities to motivate yourself.”
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