The miles and time seem to pass more quickly, you push yourself a little harder just to see if you can do it—something just feels different when you exercise with a group. It turns out that getting your sweat on as a team really does give you a boost, and there’s some serious science behind it.
1. It will make you twice as happy. Officially.
Exercise stimulates endorphin release in your brain. These “feel good” hormones produce a mild opiate high, a general feeling of wellbeing, and they block pain. If you’ve ever had a “runner’s high” or felt a rush after a tennis match, you’ll know what we’re talking about here.
Researchers at the University of Oxford enlisted the famous Oxford rowing team to test the endorphin effect on solo rowers vs. six-person team rowers. Going in, the researchers knew that laughter, music, and many religious rituals that are synchronized generate a strong sense of euphoria. They were curious to see if an exercise-focused group situation could produce these effects, and to compare it with the effect of exercise on a solo rower.
The result? Compared with exercising alone, the endorphin effect was twice as high in the team rowers, even though the intensity of the workouts was identical. The research attributes this effect to the rowers working in synchronized movement as a team.
2. A group helps you keep going. And going. And going.
Group training programs that create a positive and supportive environment can help people adapt to healthier behaviors. Whether you’re getting cooking tips from your partner between medicine ball throws, or making plans to meet up after your session, being part of a cohesive group will help you stay interested in regular exercise.
A University of Saskatchewan study and other research have found that the “groupiness” of the group plays a big role in keeping you interested. Group cohesion relies on a number of factors, including the group environment, expectations, and whether participation is formalized through registration or more casual, as in a drop-in class or pickup game. The most important factor? Feeling like the people you are exercising with are “a group.” When it feels like a group, you’re more likely to stick with it.
3. It will make you feel like you know what you’re doing in the gym. Because you will.
If you believe that you can join and consistently participate in a group class, you’ll be more likely to maintain regular physical activity. Researchers call this “self-efficacy.”
Group workouts increase self-efficacy in many ways—even if you are not the one exercising. Watching other people try and succeed has a positive influence on your own belief in your ability to do something: If they can do it, so can you.
Group training will give you a boost, help you stick with your program, and make you feel like you know what you’re doing in the gym. It can transform exercise from a lonely chore to friendly teamwork, or even (if we’re lucky) to a lifelong pleasure. Ask about close-knit Training Club 24 group training sessions and see if the group works for you.
Making the Group Work for You
• Find a group program that progresses gradually and includes modifications to challenging movements so that every member of the group can complete every exercise.
• Look for a group program that uses different equipment, fitness styles, or even different areas of the gym, to expand your confidence to a really comprehensive set of skills.
• Ask how the group is structured—a formal, scheduled program may do more for you than casual drop-in sessions.