Working out in groups and with friends can be a big bonus. One of the benefits researchers discovered was that it lowered stress in a study by 26 percent and significantly improved the quality of life! Dayna Yorks, lead researcher for the study conducted by the University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine, says the communal benefits of friends and colleagues coming together and working out together pays dividends beyond exercising alone. Doing something difficult while encouraging one another, supports the concept of a physical, emotional and mental approach to health that is important to reducing stress.
The study involved 69 medical students a group known for a self-reported low quality of life and with high levels of stress. The students were allowed to self select a twelve week exercise program either as individuals or within a group setting. A control group was included which abstained from exercise other than biking or walking for transportation purposes. Every four weeks the study completed a survey which asked them to rate their levels of quality of life and perceived stress in three categories including mental, emotional and physical.
The participants who worked out in a group spent at least 30 minutes at least once a week in CXWORX, a core strengthening and functional fitness training program. At the end of the twelve week study period, the mean monthly survey scores showed significant improvements in all three quality of life categories mental (12.6% increase), physical (24.8% increase) and emotional (26% increase). The students also reported a 26.2% reduction in perceived stress levels.
The individual fitness participants were allowed to engage in any exercise regimen they preferred which could include weight lifting and running but they had to work out alone or with no more than two partners. The individual exercisers worked out twice as long, but saw no significant changes in any category except mental (11% increase). The control group also saw no significant changes in quality of life or perceived stress.
Dr. York suggests that given the findings, not only should medical schools consider adding group fitness opportunities to their students, but anyone should think about engaging in more group exercise programs. This type of exercise regimen is an excellent outlet to manage stress and feel better mentally, physically and emotionally!
Reference: Dayna M. Yorks, Christopher A. Frothingham, Mark D. Schuenke. Effects of Group Fitness Classes on Stress and Quality of Life of Medical Students. The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, 2017; 117 (11): e17 DOI: 10.7556/jaoa.2017.140