The Surprising Benefits of Group Workouts

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Working out with a buddy is a great way to keep you moving toward your goals. A buddy can provide motivation when you're down, a "woo hoo" when you're up and keep you accountable on the days when you'd rather stay in bed instead of getting up to exercise. But did you know that working out with a buddy or group can also push you to work harder and increase your tolerance for pain?

A new study published in the journal Biology Letters studied a group of rowers and found their pain threshold to be greater after exercising with the group versus exercising on their own. Researchers concluded that acting as a group increased endorphins, which increased each person's tolerance for pain. Since the study looked at rowers who work in close synchrony, the conclusions were applicable for those types of activities (which could also include things like dancing and other sports.) Feelings of belonging that come along with many group activities also enhance the endorphin rush, making pain more tolerable.

Although this study was specific to rowers, I think it can apply to a variety of group activities. Many people like to weight train with a buddy because it makes them push harder and they get better results than they would if the did it alone. Others like to do group fitness classes or sports because the energy from others makes them work at a higher intensity level.

I'll admit that I'm more of a solitary exerciser, preferring to go for a run on my own instead of with a group. I like to do that because it gives me quiet time to myself, but I know that's not always the best idea. When I run with a group, I tend to push myself more, and I'm much less likely to walk when I get tired.

What about you? Do you prefer to exercise alone or with a group? Do you notice any difference in how it impacts your results?

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I have no idea when I'll feel safe going back to exercise classes. I do miss them! Report
KACEYSW 12/13/2019
I am always more motivated when I work out in a group, even if I have to modify stuff for my physical needs. It is helpful to have a group motivation and people urging each other on. Report
NASFKAB 11/30/2019
Great Report
BMEWWLOSER 11/24/2019
I love my classes! I am one of "those" very consistent class attendees, if I'm not there everyone wonders what happened. I have been doing this for so many years I know everyone and they know me. I am in very good health, fortunately, and the varied routines in my classes keep me strong. I know I am lucky and work hard to stay strong. I always say that as long as I can maintain this schedule, I will, when I can't any longer, I'll modify. I don't know if I could keep this up with the support of my classes. They make me happy strange as that might seem. I am 78 years young! Report
SPINECCO 10/16/2019
I prefer solo. Good article. Report
I usually exercise alone so I can do what I want to fit my schedule. Also get to listen to music that gets me moving faster & makes the time fly by.
When I was going to physical therapy, it is encouraging to see others working out even when we ate each doing our own routine. Kept me motivated when things got hard or really hurt. If I found ths right class or activity I would go & have for yoga. 🐨 Report
I usually exercise alone so I can do what I want to fit my schedule. Also get to listen to music that gets me moving faster & makes the time fly by.
When I was going to physical therapy, it is encouraging to see others working out even when we ate each doing our own routine. Kept me motivated when things got hard or really hurt. If I found ths right class or activity I would go & have for yoga Report
I recently started exercising with a group, and it has made all the difference! I love it! Report
I like to exercise alone or by walking with a dog. Report
thanks Report
Interesting thank you Report
I enjoy working out with others as it keeps me accountable and is also motivating. There was this elderly, larger women who seemed to be struggling however, she completed the class and I had to tell her how motivating she was, just being there. Report
Interesting. Thanks Report
Group exercises helped me get back into exercise after a 6 month break.

I go for spinning class 2-3 times a week, and I've started a group personal training class twice a week.

Now that I've got myself to the gym, I some time add an extra 15-20 minutes on a cardio machine because the spinning class is just 45 mins. Report
When I am walking or biking @ home, I prefer to go alone. I like the quiet and the time alone with myself. However, when I am at the gym, I prefer group work. I work harder and longer if I can gauge myself against someone else. I am a very competitive person and that pushes me to work harder. It also keeps me accountible when I promise to meet someone there, I know that I can't back out. Report
I work out alone but find I work out harder and longer at the gym than at home. I'm not too much into classes. Report
I thought I was making great progress walking alone at home and on the trail. Now that I've joined a gym, my intensity is longer and harder. I still prefer to go at off times when there are not so many people there. Report
I have mixed desires as far as exercise goes. I love doing yoga in a class setting. It does increase the benefits in ways that are difficult to describe, but are absolutely there. Biking varies, sometimes I like a quiet, solitary ride and other times with hubby or a group, depends. Strength training right now is solitary because I need to attention to my form as I learn more about my body and muscle groups. Maybe a class later on, but I do have a competitive nature that I am worried would make me overdo rather than just try harder. Report
I definitely enjoy working out in my Water aerobics class more than I do with solo exercises in the pool. I feel a spark of competition when I'm in the class and I like that the instructor is telling me what I need to do, in order to get a balanced workout. It's that much easier to just let go and be swept up in the exercise, as opposed to having to think about laps, exercises and watch the clock when I'm on my own. Report
I agree with this Study, I found Zumba works for me I like the up beat music the fun sexy moves and the group participation.
When I am on the treadmill or doing weights even a video at home I dont seem to push my self to the intensity of the group classes. Report
Absolutely. You don't want to fall behind in the group. You tend to put aside the pain to stay in sync. You also are distracted from your pain by the company and your surroundings. You can do more than you expected. Report
I've always been a soloist. I love to socialize like anyone else, but not when I exercise. I'm focused and determined and I don't like idle chit chat when I'm serious. However, I do also take Tae Kwon Do and that is a group effort. I find it challenging and I push myself in a different way in this arena. I wouldn't mind a running buddy, if she were focused and determined while running with me. But then my mind keeps wondering if I am slowing her down, or if she is slowing me down. Terrible mind games. Report
I'm a collegiate rower and I think there's really something to be said about working out with the team. We push each other at practice. It's a matter of respect for the people on whom you're depending and who are depending on you. We have a great time together and, more than any other benefits (there are many!) you become close and tight-knit with your running/rowing/exercise buddies. Great people who know exactly what you're struggling with because they're right there next to you. Report
I'm starting my journey to weight loss. But I know that working on my own isn't working for me. I can't seem to find that motivation to get started half the time and I rather be lazy which is not what I really want. I know if I had a buddy or a group to work out with I would do alot better cause I would feel the support and motivation from others and learn how to better motivate myself. Report
that is very interesting... i am NOT a social butterfly but one of my goals is to be a little more social so that might be the added incentive I need Report
Our church nurse leads a group of people twice a week on Monday and Thursday We enjoy it very much especially since we are new in the church having moved to the big city a year ago to be across the street from our son my DH has Alzheimers and when he excercise with the group he seems happy and content much more so than when we do range of motion exercises alone we do get out and walk every day at least half a mile he also has heart problems and arthritis will do my best to keep him active and in doing that benefit myself too we truly take one day at a time Report
I rowed with a group of women for years and loved even the toughest times on the water. We worked hard, laughted often and shared much in our boat. We pushed each other to achieve. Fond memories! Report
I'm a group fitness instructor, and I know me personally... when I get up there in front of a group of people to give them a workout, my own energy level soars!
No matter what time of day it is & no matter how I'm feeling... I can just DO MORE when I'm in front of the group!

I even prefer to take classes versus solidary workouts because I also find that I work harder when I have verbal cues from someone rather then making it up as I go along!

Group Exercise training is AWESOME! Report
I've always perfered talking walks by myself, it's me time and I can push myself... but for the past month or two I've been working out every monday with a group of 6 other girls and oh yeah, we push each other even more than if we were doing it alone... and it's not in a competitive way. It's in a come on, keep up, this is fun kind of way! Report
I thought I was a solitary exerciser too. I would take leisurely 2 or 2.5 hours for my workouts. But when I got married, we realized we don't have time for 7-8 hours of workouts per week. We joined a few Les Mills classes, and noticed that we worked harder and had more fun in 3 hours per week than we ever did spending more than double that amount of time! Report
I used to think I was a solitary exerciser but I've found a great group of people to exercise with and it makes an enormous difference. Report
In and of itself, exercise is difficult to embrace on a regular basis...sort of like the in-law you see once in a while... I find that if I am with other people (of like mind) then I am willing to participate... but alone, I find every excuse in the book to avoid the extra moves! I have no buddies in my area, our area team is sooooo non active.... and, although I do a lot more now than I ever did, It would be so nice to have someone else besides Coach Nicole on my 'puter to make me want to move outside of my office! Perhaps, today, I am fighting the demon and he is preventing me from making a difference in my life... but still, I am the one who is responsible...I guess I better cage the demon and get my a** in gear! Report
I do enjoy working out on my alone as well. But I feel I push myself father and faster when I am with friends or a group. This is most apprant when I set a goal to run on the treadmill at the gym, but because my friend is still going, I want to keep going too. Report
I prefer to exercise alone. However, when I go to my circuit training classes, I definitely push myself harder. The treadmill, elliptical, rowing I do alone. Report
I work out by myself usually. I may ask other individuals that I work with if they are planning to go for a workout, but we are doing our own thing. Report
I prefer having someone to workout with. Currently doing a six week program at a local gym and really think the saying "misery loves company" applies to our 1st week - sore muscles, changing habits, making commitments to improve ourselves. Report
I like to do some exercise alone, and some with a partner or a group. My husband and I like to walk and bike together, but we have also hiked with a group - a great way to keep everyone motivated to keep movin' up the mountain! Hubby and I also kayak together, but there are times when I'd rather focus on my own workout, like when I'm strength-training or using the elliptical. Being with someone else at those workouts is more of a distraction than motivation for me. Report
As a group fitness instructor, I have seen the many benefits people get from exercising in a together. People will try to do more than they would solo, just because that's what the group's doing. Group members who work out together over time get to be friends, cheerleaders, and supporters for each other. When a member of one of my classes feared she would have to drop out because of financial losses, the class members chipped in to pay her way because they knew that she needed both the exercise and the camaraderie to deal with revising her budget and her life! Report
I prefer to work out alone but I have worked out with others and it does tend to make me push myself a little harder. Report
I usually exercise alone, but have enjoyed company at the gym. I'm not very good company if I'm running, tho! Interestingly enough, I found when I ran with another person that I had to really work to keep on my pace. The sound of a different cadence threw me off! Not too much, but I noticed it. Report
I prefer to work out alone because I want to move at the pace that is right for me, both physically and mentally. However, this is an interesting study and deserves more attention. Report
My Husband and I work Out together 4 to 5 days a week. We have different needs and desires but we keep each other going to the gym. Some days we work out together and other days we don't. I like more cardio then he does. He love the weight lift and love the upper body work outs the most. Over all, working out together has been great for our combined success. Sometimes I think I would like a girl buddy who has the same needs and motivation I do. Report
Jen, I think I like both - I have found a racing buddy we have run 4 10k's together and we help push each other. I think the best thing is it makes it doing the races more fun. My Racing buddy is a Spark buddy and that makes it so much better. We did a trail run together and decided to run together and run at a slower pace and we just talked the entire race - it was fun. I like group classes too - it makes me work harder. ie spinning and body Pump.
I have to say I do both. There are times when going solo is better, but most of the time I prefer a group. Even when biking the time goes by quicker when with a partner or group. Report
I prefer to exercise alone for the most part or in a very small (1-2 additional) group. My mom & i swim a few times a week before work and i tend to not go if she doesnt. I do feel that groups definitely help you push yourself! Report
I've always been a solo workout person. However recently I've had the pleasure of kayaking with others and have learned that there is a bit of "art" involved in working out with others. It can be tricky to "pace" oneself to others and either slow down or speed up to the group's norm.

Don, Co-Leader of All Health Professionals, Binghamton Area Losers and Laid Off But Staying Strong SparkTeams Report
I prefer to work alone. It seems I do more and work harder. When I work with friends I tend to stay on their level and feel quilty if I do more. I feel they think I'm trying to show off. Report
I have always pushed myself harder when I am with other people even from my early days in dance. If I had some competition in a class or an audition I would always push myself harder to do better. While I also workout alone, I like to be around other people and like to feed off of the energy of others when we are all "suffering" together. I also find that a good instructor, like in a group aerobics class, can really push you more than you will push yourself - at least for me I know this is true. Report
I usually workout alone. But sometimes I walk with others. A couple of weeks ago I joined a friend walking for Ovarian Cancer. It was 5 miles and I had only been walking 3 daily. She walks much faster than I do, but I pushed myself to keep up--and I did! Now, I try to push myself harder and longer on my daily walks. I also made my daughter come watch me do the advanced step on the Wii Fit (she hadn't done it herself) and when she watched me, I did far better than when I was alone. Report