Why Group Exercise Is Better Than Solo

Whether you are a university student trying to get better grades, or an executive climbing the corporate ladder, or a stay-at-home mom attempting to multitask, life often turns stressful. This psychological distress can manifest as depression, anxiety, burnout and fatigue. Exercise can lower stress, improve mood and add to the quality of your life. But new research finds that a group exercise class may be even better for your mental wellness than a solo session.

A study published in the ‘Journal of the American Osteopathic Association’ has found that people who took group exercise classes reported less stress and more physical, emotional and mental health benefits than those who exercised alone or did not hit the gym at all, suggesting that a social atmosphere may improve the already numerous benefits of physical activity.

At the University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine, 69 people in medical school were recruited for the study. One group of students did at least one 30-minute core training class together each week; another exercised alone or with one or two other people at least twice a week; and a third didn’t engage in any physical activity beyond walking or biking for transportation.

The students then took surveys about their stress levels every four weeks and periodically filled out additional surveys about their physical, emotional and mental wellbeing. After 12 weeks, the researchers found that those who participated in regular group fitness classes had a significant decrease in perceived stress and an increase in physical, mental, and emotional quality of life compared with exercising regularly on one’s own or not engaging in regular exercise. Attending weekly group fitness classes could be a solution to improving the emotional wellness.

The study is small but the research suggests that the virtues of fitness classes go far beyond burning calories. The study also made another significant point. It said, “By encouraging student doctors to be physically active and researching how their activity level can positively influence other areas of their lives, we hope to inspire a generation of future physicians that will lead healthy lifestyles. We believe that if physicians lead by example and address their wellness, then they can more effectively inspire and educate their patients to do the same.”

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