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Here’s why it’s so much better to exercise in a group

social workout
Social Cycling Austin offers social workout rides for every skill level (some even ending with coffee and breakfast) throughout the Texas city. Photo courtesy of Social Cycling Austin

In an increasingly connected world, there’s still one facet of our lives many of us are continuing to do alone: exercise.

And we get it — running down the street with Rihanna and Britney is a lot more relaxing than trying to keep up with your super-fit friends. But your solo sweat sessions could actually be holding you back — according to a study conducted at Michigan State University, people perform better on aerobic tasks while exercising with a partner.

Why? Because the best way to up your efforts in both intensity and duration is with motivation, something that’s heavily influenced by the presence of other people.

In the study, 58 female undergrads were divided into three groups: the first rode stationary bikes alone, the second group worked out next to virtual partners and the third group was told their performance would determine their partner’s performance.

The third group lasted up to 10 minutes longer than the solo exercises and two minutes longer than the second group.

The November Project hosts social workout events to encourage people to stay fit in colder months; Photo courtesy of the November Project
The November Project hosts social workout events to encourage people to stay fit in colder months. Photo: Courtesy of the November Project

And this isn’t the only study to come to the same conclusion. In fact, many psychologists say we tend to act how people around us are acting; put someone in the room with Gabby Reece or Usain Bolt and they’re going to run faster and jump higher than they would on their own.

But it’s not just our competitive natures at play — we tend to push ourselves harder if we’re working toward a common goal. Chief science officer for the American Council on Exercise, Cedric Bryant, has said that group classes create an “atmosphere for accountability” (e.g. fail to show up for Zumba, and someone’s going to notice).

social workout groups
Working out for the benefit of a group can actually enhance your performance, which is why social workout groups are gaining in popularity. Photo: Courtesy of the November Project

Not ready to sweat it out in the back of the gym studio just yet? Luckily, there’s a trend in the fitness world: social workout clubs.

These no-membership-required clubs invite anyone and everyone to come out and hike, bike and run with other members of the same community — there’s no commitment or contract that says you have to show up, so it’s easier to jump in and play at any time.

Social Cycling Austin offers social bike rides around the Texas city for every speed and skill level, while the November Project was founded as a free fitness movement in Boston, a way for locals to keep each other motivated during the cold winter months with social runs. Try searching for local fitness clubs in your area and reap the benefits of a little friendly motivation.

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