The number of fitness centres offering specific group training classes has grown rapidly in the past decade, and these days you can find a gym offering specialised group classes for almost any exercise you desire. Not only are they offering some fun alternates to your usual training routine, but they might just be the magic answer for those living life in the fast lane.
When looking at group classes from a practical point of view, everything about their structure makes them great for those with a busy schedule. Classes are generally 45 minutes – 1 hour, running at multiple pre- and post-work hour time slots, meaning you can book them into your schedule just as you would a meeting or appointment. They also save you time by doing the session planning for you. All you have to do is decide what type of training you feel like doing and the class will ensure it is structured for that purpose. Upon closer inspection, spending your allocated exercise hour for the day in a group class rather than exercising on your own, could provide you with superior health benefits.
DISCONNECT & DESTRESS
As a start, group classes force you to remove yourself (and your brain) from the jobs of the day. When exercising on your own it is very easy to check your messages and emails mid-set, in fact, you are most likely playing music from your phone putting the temptation right in your back pocket. Group classes enable you to mentally switch off even further; with the instructor telling you exactly what to do, you don’t even need to be thinking about ‘what exercise comes next’.
As a result of this disconnection, your brain sends a signal to your adrenal gland to decrease the production of cortisol. Cortisol is the stress hormone, which can cause you to feel anxious or depressed, and negatively affect your digestion and sleeping quality when produced in excess.
Exercising in a group enables you to capitalise on those euphoric post-exercise endorphins, as the conviviality between the class attendees provides an additional release of endorphins. Research has found that those who exercise in a group experience significantly greater improvements in mental well-being and emotional stability than those who exercise alone.1
THE KÖHLER EFFECT
The brain isn’t the only aspect that benefits from training in a group, physically you are likely to push yourself harder. It’s known as the Köhler Effect; the idea that no one wants to be the weakest link in a group. Research shows that you will push yourself past the threshold you tend to hit when training alone when you are exercising with someone else.2 Anthropologists will debate whether a competitive streak is innate or learned, but when you are surrounded by people working hard and pushing themselves, it will motivate you (or stimulate your competitive streak) to also push yourself a little harder.
Additionally, with instructors checking your form, you’re less likely to get injured and more likely to perform the exercises more effectively.
MAKING IT WORK FOR YOU
Exercising in a group presents many benefits for any individual, but for those living life in the fast lane it may just be the solution for looking after your physical and mental well-being. And what’s more – exercising in a group is fun! This pretty simple reason for exercising in a group shouldn’t be overlooked. Having fun during your exercise session means you can push yourself harder, come back for another class and spend the rest of the day in a positive state of mind.
Yorks, D., Frothingham, C. & Schuenke, M. Effects of group fitness classes on stress and quality of life of medical students. J. Am. Osteopath. Assoc. 11, (2017).
Feltz, D. L., Kerr, N. L. & Irwin, B. C. Buddy Up : The Kohler Effect applied to health games. J. Sport Exerc. Psychol. 33, 506–526 (2011).