L. Alison Phillips, Iowa State University and Jacob Meyer, Iowa State University
Group exercises are very popular: almost 40% of regular athletes take group fitness classes. In the lead up to the coronavirus pandemic, the American College of Sports Medicine predicted that group fitness will be among the top three trends in the fitness industry in 2020 for good reason.
Exercise has clear benefits for your health and wellbeing, and the side effects – think lower blood pressure, better blood sugar control, better sleep – are mostly positive. And training in groups can have particularly positive effects.
If you’ve been considering taking an online group course – or have been encouraged by others – here are some research-based reasons why this might be a great idea.
Fun with motivated friends
Even if you’ve already decided that you want to and intend to exercise, there are several types of motivation that can determine whether you will start exercising successfully and keep it going. Exercising with others can increase these motivations.
The highest quality or type of motivation is called intrinsic motivation – you do something because the behavior itself is pleasant, satisfying, or both. If you enjoy exercising and not just the positive feelings you get after exercising, you’re more likely to stick with it. Exercising with other people can provide this enjoyment even if the activity itself is difficult or otherwise not something you love. Group exercise can turn the workout into a fun social activity that can cause you to keep doing it.
Exercising with others can also meet some basic psychological needs. Any type of exercise can help someone be in control of their decisions, but the social support of a group can increase a sense of autonomy. Group exercises can also increase the feeling of mastery – thanks to increasing competence, for example in spinning or step aerobics. And it will surely increase your connectedness with others. People naturally choose to maintain behaviors over the long term, and they promote mental health – a win-win situation.
In contrast, exercise feels less convincing when your motivation is extrinsic – for example, someone else is telling you to exercise, or you are doing it primarily to lose weight. In this case, sticking to a fitness program becomes less likely and less rewarding. When the outside factors go away – you might lose weight or decide that you no longer care about the number on your scales – your motivation to exercise is likely to go away too.
Friends help make it a habit
Exercising with others can make the whole process easier and more habitual. Friends can be both your cue and your reward for training.
First, you look at other people to learn how to do things, and there is a human tendency to model your behavior after those you see around you. Watching others work up a sweat can increase your confidence in your own ability to move – psychologists call this belief in yourself self-efficacy. You can then tend to model your behavior after that of others too. This is very important in starting a new exercise routine because how much you believe in your own ability to complete this yoga class or try new equipment in the gym will predict whether you will try.
Second, friends can remove some of the barriers to training. A workout friend can remind and encourage you to exercise, hold you accountable and even help with specific logistics such as: B. when you ride or send links for zoom courses.
And don’t forget the urge to compete. A small friendship competition held by your group can also increase the intensity of your efforts.
Habits are automatic behaviors that you don’t need to expend a great deal of energy into – they are your standard, preferred behavior. You do this consistently and often without using all of your willpower. Here, too, practice buddies can help. Habits need a cue to trigger the behavior, and a friend who texts regularly that she’ll see you by the pool on your normal day to get together might do the trick.
Habits also require a reward to keep them up and the intrinsic motivation that comes from exercising with others can be the payoff that makes exercising a part of your daily routine.
Stick to each other and train
Group exercise seems to have some benefits that individual exercise may not.
Participating in group exercises can also result in a more consistent and resilient exercise experience. Previous research has shown that people who feel more connected in their exercise class, attend more sessions, arrive on time, drop out less often, are more disruptive, and are more likely to get greater mental benefit from exercising. Because quitting exercise programs are common and disruptions can easily divert people from their exercise routine, taking a group exercise class can be a particularly good way to resolve these issues.
When choosing a practice group to join, consider how similar the other participants are to you – think about age, gender, and interests. You are likely to form a closer group with people you identify with, and those related groups are more likely to stick together and keep exercising.
Group support at a safe distance
So by exercising with others, you can provide all of the elements necessary for a successful, enjoyable, and active lifestyle. Especially if you are feeling isolated from the pandemic and its effects, now might be the perfect time for you to try out group exercise at a distance. If the weather works, you might find a yoga class that meets outdoors with plenty of space between participants, or a running club whose members remain masked.
Virtual classes can serve as a substitute for personal group practice classes. Yes, they may need a little more motivation to find and access devices, or they may request devices that you don’t already have at home. Distance learning, however, offers additional potential benefits, including flexibility in schedule, variety in activities and exercise types, and connection with other people who are physically distant.
L. Alison Phillips, Associate Professor of Psychology at Iowa State University; and Jacob Meyer, Assistant Professor of Kinesiology at Iowa State University
This article is republished by The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.