HOORAY FOR SOCIAL BENEFITS!
Do you like to hit the gym, road, or do a workout video by yourself? Or do you thrive in a crowded group fitness class with everyone breathing, moving, and toning in sync or completing a group w.o.d or challenge?
No matter what kind of exercise you gravitate toward, there’s no downside to staying physically active — especially with so many Americans falling short (Trusted Source) of national exercise guidelines. But research suggests that if you’re a loner when it comes to exercise, you might be missing out on some health benefits from group workouts. Exercise is already known to have many benefits for mental health (Trusted Source,) including improving sleep and mood, boosting sex drive, and increasing energy levels and mental alertness.
In a new study, researchers looked at whether group exercise could help medical students, a high-stress group that could probably use regular workouts. For the research, 69 medical students joined one of three exercise groups. One group did a 30-minute group core strengthening and functional fitness training program at least once a week, along with extra exercise if they wanted.
Another group were solo exercisers, who worked out on their own or with up to two partners at least twice a week.
In the final group, students didn’t do any exercise other than walking or biking to get where they needed to go.
The researchers measured students’ perceived stress levels and quality of life — mental, physical, and emotional — at the start of the study and every four weeks. All of the students started the study at about the same level for these mental health measures. After 12 weeks, group exercisers saw improvements in all three types of quality of life, as well as a drop in their stress levels. In comparison, solo exercisers only improved on mental quality of life — even though they exercised about an hour more each week than the group exercisers. For the control group, neither stress level nor quality of life changed that much by the end of the study.
ARE ALL GROUP CLASSES CREATED EQUAL?
Paul Estabrooks, PhD, a behavioral health professor at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, found that “exercise context” shapes how much effect exercise has on quality of life, social interactions, physical benefits, and people sticking with their workouts.
In general, the more contact or social support that people had during exercise — from researchers, health professionals, or other exercise participants — the greater the benefits.
Estabrooks noted that "group-based fitness classes are typically only more effective when they use group dynamics strategies."
GROUP DYNAMIC STRATEGY INCLUDE:
You may not find this in every exercise class. “This usually isn’t the case in most group-based fitness classes,” said Estabrooks, “where folks show up, follow an instructor, don’t talk much to one another, and then leave.”
HOW DOES TOADAL CROSS-TRAINING (TXT) HELP ME?
This is the case in TXT, we utilize the above "group dynamic strategies" to help our athletes meet their goals. If you have taken TXT you most likely know the physical benefits that you reap after each sweaty heart pounding, muscle building class. Our workouts carry emotional and social benefits as well. Benefits such as better physical health, reduced risk of potentially serious disease, lower blood pressure and a well-toned body, who doesn't like that?
After taking a few classes you may notice your physical/emotional health and self-esteem improves (you know you're fabulous tho,) your social relations may also improve. You may be more likely to reach out to others due to your increased self-confidence. Also, as you know participating in classes will introduce you to new people who share a common interest. Meeting others may be the first step toward establishing new friendships, developing a support network & building a fitness community. That support network may also be the reason you keep showing up again and again, helping you meet your fitness goal. If you're not interested in a fitness community or socializing in class, you still may be able to reap the social benefits of class. How is this possible? by asking a like minded TXTer to meet you for regular walks, or join local fitness challenges, maybe even do outside activities (5k-10k, surf or hike) thus helping you continue to be more active outside of classes.
Although group fitness classes may offer extra benefits, not everyone is a TXT, spin, body sculpt, bootcamp, or yoga class kind of person. One study found that extroverts were more likely to prefer group-based and high-intensity physical activities, compared to introverts. No big shock there. For some people class is about solitude and going inward and letting their daily stress slip away. For others, though, class could be more about community and social bonding.
In the end, staying active is better for you than being sedentary. So find some physical activity that you love to do and stick with it — whether it’s packing yourself into a sweaty Toadal Cross-training class or backpacking solo in the wilderness.