You know when you go to a kickass cycling class, and you literally feel a high coming over you by the time you leave? The energy in the room was indescribably amazing, and it left you wanting more and more of those feel-good endorphins. But at the same time, you do love when you get the chance to sweat it out solo — just you, your cat crawling across your yoga mat every few minutes, and a couple of dumbbells. You know you enjoy both types of workouts, but is it better to exercise alone or with others?
While there's nothing wrong with enjoying some quality alone time with just your workout videos and your fav feline, science says that, if you're specifically looking for a workout that'll make you feel happier, exercising with a group has been shown to significantly lower stress levels and improve your quality of life overall.
According to a recent study published in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, group workouts like a cycling or Zumba class provide so much more than just physical benefits, as they support mental and emotional health, too.
The study assessed a group of 69 medical students who, let's be real, are probably stressed AF around the clock. They were split into three groups, and they were allowed to choose a 12-week exercise program to participate in. One group did a 30-minute group workout once a week, the second group exercised solo, and the last group — the control group of the experiment — didn't exercise at all, with the exception of walking or biking to work.
The researchers gave the students a survey to take about once a month throughout the study, which evaluated their stress levels, as well as their emotional, physical, and mental quality of life.
The results eventually showed that the students who worked out in a group setting reaped far more benefits than any of the other participants.
Though the solo sweaters worked out twice as long and were allowed to pick their favorite form of exercise to do by themselves, there were essentially no changes in their stress levels or quality of life. Meanwhile, those who worked out in a group saw significant improvements in mental, physical, and emotional health, and their stress levels decreased by a not-too-shabby 26 percent.
Even if you don't experience the same exact type of stress as an overworked med school student, we all have our own everyday stressors to contend with. And while exercise may already be part of your stress-busting regimen, perhaps it's time to give a group class a shot if it hasn't ever really been your thing in the past.
If you ask me, there's just something so empowering about sweating it out alongside people who share your passions and goals.
And it's even more reassuring to know that science totally backs me up on that one. What's more is that the BETTER team over at NBC News put this theory to the test themselves one day when they tried working out with 750 other people aboard an aircraft carrier. A half hour later, despite being drenched in sweat, they were also pumped up with endorphins, adrenaline, and all the good vibes. Plus, experts assured them after the fact that the benefits weren't just in their heads; there really is a science to it.
So, even if you're the type of person who's usually into sweating it out by yourself, perhaps it's time to consider how much more you'd benefit from working out in a class, or even just with a gym buddy.
For those of you who are in college, try signing up for intramural or group sports so that you can sweat out all those study-induced stressors in good company. Or, if you're on that 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. grind and you're stressed AF after a long day at the office, trying out ClassPass is an incredible way to experiment with different kinds of group fitness experiences to find the one that's best for you. Even just hitting the gym with a few close friends could be a great place to start, especially if you're not really into cycling or studio experiences.
No matter what you do, remember that this is an amazing investment in you and your overall quality of life.