By Erica Moe
Me, myself and, of course, I. Surely one of us can figure this out. “This” is an exercise routine. And what I need to figure out is how to stick with one. I thought I could do it by myself. However, the cycle ends up being exercise; lose weight; try to keep it off; repeat. I have a degree, several certifications — and a hard time sticking with the routine. But why? Maybe, you are like me and need a supernatural power outside of yourself. We may need the power of a group. Ever wonder why 60 percent of people are drawn to exercise as a group?
Benefits to your body and your brain
Oxford’s Institute of Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology tested several people on a rowing machine. Half of the participants exercised by themselves and the other half did the exact same workout as a group. Even though the workouts were the same, the rowers who worked out together had double the pain tolerance over those working out alone. One explanation is that working out with a group triggers an increase in endorphins.
Other benefits associated with a being in a group include being more punctual, having better attendance and working harder with less fatigue. One study showed that group exercise was better than individual therapy for chronic low back pain. Other studies show that group exercisers have elevated moods and are associated with more altruism.
Groups make exercise seem easier and workouts go by more quickly — all while improving outlook/mood. And they’re fun! Not convinced, yet?
The Four E’s:
Experience — Being part of a group allows the opportunity to meet new people, increases social camaraderie and creates lasting relationships. People who work hard together, play hard together.
Education — Typically, a group activity is led by an instructor who provides safe and effective workouts. During each workout, a knowledgeable leader is giving recommendations and helpful information, all while advising on proper form and technique. The instructor can help the group create and achieve goals together. Typically, no prior exercise knowledge or experience is necessary.
Enjoyment — Try going to the movies or going out to eat alone. Boring. Go with a group and, voila, instant party. In addition to having fun, positive group experiences, including exercise, can build confidence and self-esteem.
Encouragement — We are our own worst critics. Let go of the inner critic and use that energy to encourage others during the routine. Members of the group will encourage consistency with the routine and, ultimately, create instant accountability partners.
Group exercise can take many shapes and forms. It could be joining a training group to run a 5K or marathon. It may be boot camps on the beach or activities at the Y like small-group personal training, Team Challenge or Get Real Weight Management. All of these are group opportunities. Create a community with common goals today and let your body and brains enjoy the benefits!
—Erica Moe is an ACSM-certified exercise physiologist who writes on behalf of the Mission Valley YMCA where she is fitness director.