Why working out with friends works out better

It’s a no brainer that being physically active is good for your health and wellbeing. The human body was designed to move! But if you really want to get the biggest bang for your exercise buck, research has found doing it with a group can deliver the best results.

Researchers out of the University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine, took a group of medical students and got them to conduct a 12 week exercise program. The students were allowed to choose between completing the program individually or in a group setting. Another group were recruited as a control, taking part in no exercise.

The group fitness classes were 30 minutes, just once a week, while those in the individual setting were required to exercise alone or with up to two people at least twice per week.

Compared to the no exercise control group, at the end of the 12 weeks those exercising as part of a group saw:
  • 12% boost in mental wellbeing;
  • 24% boost in self-reported physical fitness;
  • 26% rise in emotional stability; and
  • 26% reduction in perceived stress levels.

On the other hand, those who worked out individually saw an 11% boost in mental wellbeing, but no significant changes in other areas.

The study authors are quick to point out that their research wasn’t a condemnation of individual exercise and that there was great benefit to be had from physical activity of any kind. In fact, just 30 minutes of moderate intensity activity each day - think brisk walking, swimming, tennis, golf or even some household tasks like raking leaves - can significantly reduce your risk of lifestyle-related chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes and some types of cancers. But group fitness represents a unique opportunity to tap into the significant health benefits of physical activity and social connection at the same time.

Top tips for getting active as a group

1. Get walking
Start a local weekly walking group with friends or workmates. Pick a place to meet, strap on your shoes and get walking - it’s as simple as that. Feeling a bit more competitive, check out WILD THINGS NZ Trail Running Club for ideas, information and inspiration.

2. Start a club or join a team
Get a group of workmates together for a game of social sport. It might be an informal game at lunch time or an organised league after work. Either way it’s a chance to get active, strengthen relationships or build friendships. On your own? Get online and search for social sport in your area, websites like Meetup can help you connect with others who share your passion for netball, tennis, soccer, basketball, dancing or many other sports.

3. Get down to your local park
Grab a ball and head down to the local park with the family. It seems simple, but chasing the kids around is a great way to get active while building quality connections with those you love.

Did you know? Physical activity is important for reducing cancer risk. Moderate daily exercise of at least 60 minutes or vigorous daily exercise for 30 minutes may reduce the risk of bowel, breast, endometrial, lung, pancreatic and prostate cancers.

For more advice on getting active, check out what the New Zealand Ministry of Health have to say about sitting less and moving more.
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