Is Group Exercise Better Than Working Out Alone?

Updated: Jun 3, 2021

Do you feel like your HIIT routine has got easier now that you can sweat through it under the same roof as - gasp - actual, real-life, human beings? Or has it felt strangely more challenging?

Now that we’re finally allowed to attend both indoor and outdoor exercise classes again, we’ve been reflecting on the pros, and possible cons, of working out with friends, family and even strangers. And all this after a year of fighting to stay active throughout varying levels of forced isolation.

Everything was lonely in 2020 and exercise was no exception. Barred from swimming pools, tennis and our favourite gyms, we panicked to adapt our workout routine to this new strange reality. Eventually we settled into our new situation and made working out at home work for us. Once we were allowed out into the wild outdoors again, we splurged gleefully on new bikes and other gear for solo cycle and runs through the height of winter, but finally we can now attend outdoor and indoor classes with other people!

If you’ve already got back into your old exercise routines you might have started comparing it to what you were doing back in lockdown, and you’re not alone - psychologists and scientists are just as curious. That said, their research can seem a bit conflicting, so we took some time to look into it and get the details for you. Read on to see whether working out in a group or alone is your best option.

The Benefits of Group Exercise

If you’ve ever wanted to know how to motivate yourself to get fit, you might be surprised to know that there’s safety in numbers. Evidence suggests that group exercise might make it easier to start, and even stick with, a workout routine. It can also help you push yourself to meet a fitness or wellness goal you find challenging, even if that competition takes place online.

If, like many of us, you’ve been struggling with declining mental health during the past year, group exercise could also add an additional boost to proven benefits of any type of exercise for mental health. Team sports in particular, such as volleyball and netball, could also improve your life satisfaction.

To recap, group exercise can help you:

  • Start exercising

  • Keep exercising

  • Meet a fitness challenge

  • Add a mental health boost

  • Increase your long-term life-satisfaction (if you choose a team sport)

  • Advance your career (again if you choose a team sport)

The Benefits of Working Out Alone

There are, however, some potential drawbacks to group exercise. The obvious one is, of course, that group exercise still carries a COVID risk, although the New York Times looked into how you can determine whether a group class is COVID safe. Fortunately, as more people get vaccinated, these risks will decrease.

Getting to your classes will also cost you in time and effort, which you will have noticed if you’ve tried to juggle a group class schedule with your Zoom schedule. Plus, if you choose to drive to a class rather than get public transport, there’s also your carbon footprint to consider.

What you might not know is that some studies have found that we can become very self-conscious in front of the mirrors that are typically found in group classes, which is not good for mental or physical health. Working out alone also allows you to choose your own music, which might actually make your workouts feel easier.

To recap, solo exercise can help you to:

  • Avoid any COVID-19 risks and anxiety

  • Save time and effort

  • Reduce your carbon footprint

  • Feel less self conscious

  • Make your workouts feel easier

So… which is better?

Although some studies comparing solo and group exercise have found that group exercise has greater health benefits, there are definitely pros and cons to both approaches to getting fit. Arguably, much like strength and cardio, group and solo workouts are good for different purposes and, depending on your fitness goals, it might help you to participate in both.

Which one is better ultimately depends on you. Put on your lab coat - let’s get a little scientific about this:

1. Get clear on your motivation and list your goals

Why do you work out? Even if the answer might seem obvious to you, write it down, type it out or make a mental note, then take some serious time to reflect on your motivations.

While many of us might be tempted to skip this step, sports scientists say it makes all the difference. Studies have found that a workout routine, whether group or solo, will only remain in place and effective if the person is internally or intrinsically motivated as opposed to external or extrinsic motivation. This means that a workout must feel inherently good to do, otherwise why would you keep up with it?

It might also explain why our solo workouts during the pandemic didn’t feel great. Not only were we dealing with the emotional toll of a historic upheaval of global society, but when we were working out alone it was, importantly, not entirely by choice. Similarly group exercise can make exercise more fun and rewarding, but only if you don’t feel forced into it.

Having a clear ‘why’ will help you determine fitness and wellness goals that are actually meaningful to you and, therefore, more achievable. These goals will help you to determine which of the benefits of group or solo exercise might be best for you.

2. Match your challenges with your goals

Honesty time: what has stopped you from achieving your fitness goals in the past? For many of us this line of questioning leads straight to negative thinking, but it doesn’t have to. Why not adopt a more objective and curious mindset instead? After all, we’re only able to grow if we have the right resources and support - so be brave and look at your problems, then commit to giving yourself what you need.

Now take a look at your list of goals and challenges and compare it to the benefits of each type of exercise we listed above. What stands out to you? Is there a challenge that group exercise can help you overcome? Or do you feel more validated in your decision to exercise alone?

3. Set up your tests and analyse your results

Now it’s time for action - find a class near you or a new online class, and keep showing up. (Hint: This is the most challenging step.) After a few lessons, it’s time to crunch the numbers.

Keep your eye on the data that really matters to you and your goals.

4. Empower yourself with extra data

Of course, with wearables and apps, we’ve got more data than ever at our disposal, which can only help us hone in on our targets. More data means more possibilities, but most of us are flushing potentially valuable info down the drain. Literally.

At Elosia we’ve changed that. We’ll help you track your electrolyte, hydration, ketones, pH and VitaminC levels via our app, which will then deliver a nutrition plan tailored to your body’s unique needs. Every week you’ll use one of our home urine tests: pee on a strip, scan it with our app, and within 60 seconds we’ll deliver recommendations tailored to your body’s unique balance of elements.

Our app will be able to process your pee and recommend suggestions for other nagging questions, whether you’re concerned about getting enough water or worried about what nutrients your body needs.

Whatever your motivations, Elosia aims to help you reach your wellness goals, no matter what they are.

Enjoy a 10% discount off our urine test strips with the code PEEOFF1. Click here and unlock the secrets of your body today!
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