When going to a group exercise class for the first time you may have felt nervous because you did not know anyone, or you did not know what to expect. As the class progressed you felt the energy, felt invited, and felt motivated. By the end of the class, there was this feel-good feeling and left you wanting to come back. Often, many people may prefer to work out alone and while there is nothing wrong with working out alone, if you have never experienced a group class, I would suggest giving it a try. Working out alone does not always compare to that feeling you get after a cycling class, a boot camp, or a hip shaking Zumba class.
By nature, humans are social animals and so we enjoy the company of others. The pandemic has made it harder for people to get together to work out, but this did not mean you could not work out as a group. People got creative and worked out together from their balconies, while others worked out together through Zoom (just like we did at the beginning of the pandemic!). The parks have become the new outdoor gyms! Why are we going through all the trouble to see each other while working out?
Let us look at some of the research. Researchers wanted to determine if group fitness would improve quality of life and lower stress in medical students – a highly stressed group! The students were divided into three groups. Group one was put in a group exercise class, group two worked out alone, and group three did not engage in exercise. The medical students were surveyed on their perceived stress as well as their mental, physical, and emotional quality of life. After the 12 weeks, those students that participated in the group exercise class had a significant decrease in perceived stress as well as increase in their quality of life and improvements in their emotional well-being, the other two groups showed no improvements! Group exercise classes can have the same results for all of us. You do not need to be a medical student to suffer from or have distress in life which can stem from work, school, family, or just because of all the uncertainty that is happening in the world. This distress can manifest as depression, anxiety, fatigue, or just having a low quality of life. No matter your situation, group exercise can improve your quality of life.
What other benefits are there to group exercise classes? If you have never exercised before or want to try a new training regime but hiring a personal trainer is not within your budget, then going to a group exercise class is a great option! Creating your own workout is not easy but with group exercise you are guided by the instructor. You get the expertise you need from a certified fitness professional at a great price.
Another benefit is motivation. Some people want to start exercising, but they do not feel motivated or supported. Sometimes you might not have the motivation to work out or to push through the workout, but once you have signed up for a class, you know you need to go as you have made a commitment. Once you get there the energy of the other participants motivates you to get it done. The other participants motivate you to keep coming back to the class as you become part of their tribe.
The social aspect of the group exercise is another great benefit. As mentioned before, we are social creatures, we like to be around other people that enjoy the same things we do. Even if exercise is not your favorite thing to do, having a group gives you the support you need to be able to reap the benefits. The feeling of belonging to a group is awesome, because in group exercise everyone is welcomed without judgement.
This group or tribe is not just an exercise group, it is a family. Take Garage Girls for example, with this pandemic going on we have kept the group tight. We are still a community even though we might not see each other and work out separately. Although you might not feel as comfortable to go to an in-person class because of COVID-19 or you are simply not comfortable working out with others then online classes can help you stay on track. Taking these classes will still make you part of the community. So, if you have never tried group exercise classes, give it a try. If you have tried them, encourage family/friends to join you the next time. You can try a new style of group exercise. The diversity of options helps you tailor your workout schedule to your daily life. Sign up for that class that you have been wanting to try and start reaping the benefits!
Yorks, D. M., Frothingham, C. A., & Shuenke, M. D. (2017). Effects of Group Fitness Classes on Stress and Quality of Life of Medical Students. The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, 117.
Cynthia Morales completed her Bachelors of Science degree in Kinesiology with an emphasis in Fitness at Long Beach State University. She loves promoting healthy lifestyle changes and helping people through their own journey to help them reach their wellness goals.