Exercise can do a body good, but it can also be a chore. Workouts can get boring, daily commitments can shift and the stresses associated with exercise sometimes seem like they outweigh the benefits. New research tells us, however, that working out as a group can improve quality of life way more than working out solo. That’s right—group classes can not only get your blood pumping, but can reduce stress and make you happier day to day.
Researchers from the University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine published a study in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association which detailed their findings. They followed a group of medical students (you know, people who generally have super-low stress levels, right?) who either entered in to a solo 12-week exercise program or one that would allow them to work out as a group, for the same duration of time. A control group did not participate in any structured exercise.
What they discovered was that those who did group exercise reported improvement in three different quality of life measurements: mental, physical and emotional. They also reported an 26.2 percent overall reduction in stress. Alternatively, those who worked out alone didn’t have increases in these measures, except for a modest increase in mental quality of life. The control group also experienced no significant increases in these scales.
“The communal benefits of coming together with friends and colleagues, and doing something difficult, while encouraging one another, pays dividends beyond exercising alone,” lead researcher Dayna Yorks, DO told Science Daily. “The findings support the concept of a mental, physical and emotional approach to health that is necessary for student doctors and physicians.”
These findings could most certainly be useful for improving the daily lives of busy students (especially medical students), as they essentially serve as a call to action for programs to encourage or provide group exercise opportunities to keep students away from burnout. The implications could also reach into other professions and settings—just about anyone could potentially feel a boost in their quality of life and a drop in stress levels by exercising with other people.
If you are looking to begin a new fitness regimen, take a look into local exercise classes. Dance studios, yoga studios, CrossFit boxes, boot camps, hiking groups and local YMCA programs are great places to start. Bring a friend with you or plan on making a few new ones while you’re there. Any way you choose to do it, the potential benefits of group exercise are worth giving it a try.