Would you rather dine out at a table for one or in the company of others? Go to the movies alone or with your best friend? Fly solo on a vacation or invite a friend to join you? While time off to yourself is important, the truth is that time spent with others has the power to vastly enrich our lives — and our workout regimens, as it turns out.
Unfortunately, many people end up trying to go it alone when it comes to fitness, and in doing so thwart their fitness goals before they even get started, according to a growing body of evidence pointing to the value of working out with others. Read on to learn more about how group classes can help you reach your fitness goals.
The Buddy Benefit
Think you’ll accomplish more by working out on your own? Think again. In fact, according to research from the UK, exercising with a friend has profound benefits. One study based on a survey of 1,000 women revealed that friends who worked out together trained longer, burned more calories, and visited their fitness facilities, health clubs and gyms more frequently than their solo counterparts. All in all, 64 percent of survey participants revealed that they pushed themselves harder in the company of others while 31 percent cited friendships as their primary motivation for staying in shape.
Looking for more hard evidence? How about a difference of more than 40 calories burned per workout session? The survey reveals that women who exercise with friends burn an average of 236 calories per session compared to the 195 calories per session women burn when they hit the gym alone. Women who work out with friends also exercise for longer (42 compared to 36 minutes) and go to the gym more (at least seven times a month compared to six times a month).
As a study spokesperson explained:
“We all have a need to socialize and be with other people, it’s written into our DNA so it’s no surprise that a lot of people like to exercise with friends as this study shows. Sometimes having an exercise partner is the difference between sitting on the couch in the evening and getting up and out of the house.”
Adds Dr. Lawrence J. Cheskin, MD, of The Johns Hopkins Weight Management Center:
“A group approach to weight loss typically benefits everyone involved. Studies have found that support from people sharing the same experience and struggles with the difficult task of losing weight (and keeping it off) can enhance weight loss outcomes. “
The Power of the Group
Why is group exercise so successful as a means of promoting individual fitness success?
The first reason is a simple one. It’s fun. If you have ever embarked on a solo workout routine, perhaps on the treadmill or stairmaster, you may have hit a (figurative) wall. This may not have come from being physically exhausted, but from being mentally tired of doing the same thing day after day. Working out with a friend takes the boredom out of the equation and makes working out more fun.
Aside from the socialization they offer, group exercise classes are also refreshingly diverse. At Brick Bodies, for example, the lineup of group classes includes everything from Aqua Bootcamp to Zumba Toning. Variations in instructors, music selection, and so on further ensure that no two classes are ever alike. (So why not sign up for an Aquatic Session today?)
Group classes also offer a way for newcomers to the gym to get their bearings. Classes aimed specifically for beginners mean newbies can enroll in a class with the confidence of knowing they will be surrounded by people in their same situation. In addition to making it easier for beginners to work up the confidence to join, group classes help new members benefit from learning the safest, most effective workout techniques.
Explains the American College of Sports Medicine:
“An exercise class structured with a purpose can be beneficial for people with limited knowledge about safe and effective exercise programming. An appropriately designed class includes warm-up, cool-down and flexibility in addition to the conditioning section. When people exercise on their own, they often skip portions of a workout they know less about or are not their favorite to perform.”
And then there is the accountability factor. After all, it is much harder to hit the snooze button, vow to go tomorrow and fall back asleep when you know someone else is counting on you. (If you have paid in advance, this accountability becomes financial as well as emotional.) Similarly, you are likely to be more motivated to work harder and push through limitations to reach goals sooner with the encouragement (and competition) of others.
Despite all of these many benefits, the study concluded something else: Nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of women were still working out alone. If you are ready to start reaping the many extraordinary benefits of group fitness classes, grab a buddy and sign up for a trial pass today.