The Benefits of Group Exercise

Mary Tweed
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People take up Nordic Walking for many different reasons (to loose weight, become fitter, meet new people, exercise outdoors), but they all have one overriding factor in common: they enjoy being part of a group activity. This harks back to our childhoods when we enjoyed tearing around the playground with a gang of other like minded children and having fun. Although we didn’t realise it we were inadvertently exercising together. As adults, we enjoy socialising and we know that we ought to do some exercise, but all too often a new regime falls by the wayside, because we attempt to go it alone and thus it becomes boring; a chore that needs to be schedules into our busy lives.

Exercising with others has been proven to have far higher success rates than working as an individual and there are several reasons for this. The first is that the social interaction and camaraderie staves off boredom and therefore makes us less likely to quit. The shared experience of being healthy gives us a positive feeling towards exercise and makes us feel part of a team, combatting isolation and loneliness.

The accountability factor is a great motivator, as we feel committed to the group and want to show up. The encouragement doled out by the instructor and by fellow group members as they see us improve week on week is extremely rewarding. As one of my clients said, when I congratulated her on mastering the arm extension,

“I am always praising my children for their achievements, but I can’t remember when anyone last said “well done” to me.”

It turns out that we release far more endorphins, when working in a group than alone. Researchers working with a team of rowers found that members of a team who exercised together were able to tolerate twice as much pain (a measure of endorphin release) than when exercising alone. The lead author, Dr Emma Cohen said, “The results suggest that endorphin release is significantly greater in group training than in individual training even when power output, or physical exertion, remains constant.”

Sarah Hanson, a postgraduate researcher, who led a study with Professor Andy Jones of UEA’s Norwich Medical School, says:

“Our research shows that joining a walking group is one of the best and easiest ways to boost overall health. The benefits are wide ranging and they go above and beyond making people more physically active. What’s more, people find it relatively easy to stick with this type of exercise regime.”

This study found that people who walk in groups improve their levels of fitness, weight loss, blood pressure and cholesterol, in an enjoyable, fun atmosphere.


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