The few times I've ever signed up for a group workout class, I've actually really enjoyed myself. Even though I usually walk through the door feeling a little anxious about the prospect of sweating alongside a bunch of people who might be more athletic than I am, the group atmosphere never makes me feel worse about my abilities. Instead, the energy of the group often helps motivate me to keep pushing myself through each exercise, and the feeling of mutual support throughout the room is almost electric. Working out alone versus in a group might seem like a question of personal preference, and it is, but if you're someone who's never really ventured into a group fitness environment, there are actually some pretty good reasons to give it a try.
When it comes to the mental health benefits, for example, you might want to consider finding a group of friends to join you in your workouts. For a 12-week study published in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, researchers divided 69 medical student participants into three groups: those exercising alone or with up to two partners, those exercising in a group fitness class, and those not engaging in regular exercise. Every four weeks, the participants filled out a survey to gauge their stress levels. Not only did the study's authors find that those who took regular group fitness classes showed significantly less stress than those in the other two groups, but they also showed an increase in physical, mental, and emotional well-being.
Taking a fun new workout class you've always wanted to try could also help shake you out of a fitness rut. "Most of us are familiar with our major muscle groups, and when we only do one type of exercise," says Melissa Green, founder of Just Like Om, a yoga, pilates, and wellness studio in New York City, "it can create an imbalance in our muscular system, which can lead to postural misalignment, chronic pain, and injury." If, for example, you find yourself heading out for a run most days, try signing up for a kickboxing class, or target different muscles with a barre workout.
Accountability is also a huge perk of working out with others as opposed to going solo, says Michelle Chuang, a certified fitness instructor at The Bar Method. "Group fitness classes provide an extra boost in motivation because you will be in the company of other people who are looking to stay active," she tells Elite Daily in an email. "Also, many group classes charge a fee for late cancellation, therefore holding you accountable."
Of course, there are definitely benefits to working out by yourself, too. For one thing, you can be much more flexible with when you exercise, so if you have to stay late at work, stop by the grocery store at the last minute, or just give in to your puppy's hopes that you'll play with him before your workout, you won't be keeping anyone waiting.
Whatever workout works best for your schedule and your body is probably the one you should choose, at the end of the day. But even if you are a dedicated solo exerciser, you might want to at least give a group workout a try, even if that just means grabbing a few friends for a casual Saturday morning hike.