It’s no secret that human beings are social creatures. We’re wired to enjoy doing things together: playing, collaborating on school and work projects, attending dances and social events, participating in sports, and celebrating occasions like weddings and birthdays.
And yet when it comes to exercise, we often try to go it alone. Sometimes it works, but more often it doesn’t. Research suggests that more than half us drop out of our fitness programs after six months.
How can we improve our adherence to an exercise program? By working out with others! Exercising with a buddy or in a group offers benefits you may miss by working out alone.
Whether you are walking with a friend, doing a small group workout with a trainer, or attending a group fitness class, you benefit from the support of others engaged in the same activity. Furthermore, loyalty to your friends and instructor or trainer can motivate you to stick to your routine, because you won’t want to let anyone down by skipping a workout.
Working out with others is a great way to meet new people who share a common interest. Often, exercise “relationships” grow into lifelong friendships.
A common reason given for quitting an exercise program is boredom. Walking, running or lifting weights with a buddy can alleviate boredom by providing social interaction. Most communities also have running and cycling clubs that not only provide organized exercise activities, but social activities as well.
Finally, the variety of class formats, instructor styles and music available in group fitness workouts can also help you maintain your interest and motivation. There is literally something for everyone – yoga, indoor cycling, aquatics, kickboxing, group weight training, boot camp and interval training classes, Zumba™, barre, small group personal training, and so much more.
A structured exercise class or group training session led by a certified instructor or trainer can help everyone from exercise newcomers to experienced “veterans” work out safely and effectively.
Fitness by Appointment
Weekly appointments to meet buddies to walk, run, cycle, rock climb or engage in other physical activities will help you stick to your exercise routine. In addition, group fitness classes or training sessions usually take place at the same time on the same day every week making them easy to remember. With so many class choices offered every day, you should be able to find a few to fall in love with that fit your schedule.
Happy Body, Happy Brain
Research suggests that group exercise unleashes a flood of chemicals called endorphins into the brain (Biology Letters, 2010). Endorphins are the same chemicals that stimulate a “runner’s high.” This is a physiological effect of exercise that produces a mild opiate high and creates a sense of well-being as well as blocking pain. Endorphins are produced by virtually any vigorous physical activity, but group work appears to enhance the effect dramatically.
So, if you want to increase your odds of sticking to an exercise program, try joining a group. Whether it’s a group of two or 20, just remember that the greater your sense of “groupness,” the more likely you are to show up on time, work harder, and stick to your program.