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4 Benefits of Group Exercise Classes

Establishing an exercise routine only takes you so far. Here are the top four advantages of taking group fitness classes with friends and family.

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Two seniors runningPhoto: Shutterstock

1. Group Exercise Classes Give You More Motivation

Should other people be part of your exercise routines? That’s largely a matter of personal preference, but exercising with a companion or in a group, whether at yoga sessions or dance classes, or when cycling, has many upsides. That’s because people tend to stick more faithfully with group exercise classes than with solo fitness routines.

“A bit of gentle peer pressure and friendly competition can go a long way when it comes to motivation,” says Dr. Dawn Skelton, a professor of aging and health at Glasgow Caledonian University in Scotland. Even informal arrangements between friends have the advantage of making you accountable to somebody other than yourself.

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Trainer helping senior work outPhoto: Shutterstock

2. Group Exercise Classes Provide Certified Trainers

In structured multi-person classes, participants can benefit from a certified trainer’s expertise and encouragement, often for a fraction of the price of one-on-one sessions. Offerings designed specifically for the needs of older adults are on the rise, according to the American College of Sport Medicine’s worldwide survey of fitness trends from 2012.

These include the internationally recognized strength and balance courses Otago (for older or frailer people) and Falls Management Exercise (FaME; for younger or more active seniors). Consisting of a series of strength exercises (such as calf raises) and balance exercises (such as walking backwards), both programs target the muscles and skills that will help participants avoid and, if necessary, control falls.

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Seniors doing pool exercisesPhoto: Shutterstock

3. Group Exercise Classes Give You a Rush

The most compelling reasons to train together may be the rush: doing workouts with others promotes endorphins, morphine-like chemicals that reduce pain and make you feel good, sometimes even euphoric. Your body releases them when you’re on your own, but research suggests that group activities may have an edge.

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Group exercise classesPhoto: Shutterstock

4. Group Exercise Classes Promote Social Bonding

Oxford University scientists compared the same athletes rowing solo for 45 minutes and rowing in a team for an equal amount of time. The team sessions resulted in higher endorphin levels, as measured by how much squeeze needed to be added to a blood-pressure cuff before the rowers felt the first twinge of discomfort.

“Synchronized physical activity elevates mood and enhances a sense of social bonding,” the researchers explained. This natural high just might give you enough motivation to keep coming back for more.

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