5 Benefits of Having a Fitness Community

Medically reviewed in February 2022

Too many people who begin exercising fall out of the habit within the first six months—even after a health crisis. After heart surgery, for example, everyone will follow their healthcare provider’s instructions about diet and exercise ... but not for long. Once you begin to feel normal, it’s easy to revert to your old habits.

Creating a “new normal” can require a community. Less than 20 percent of women age 40 and up regularly do strength-training, according to an April 2010 study published in the Journal of Aging and Physical Activity. But when researchers polled women who had participated in a group strength-training program over three months, nearly 80 percent were still working out regularly—on average, for more than a year.

Socializing and cheerleading is fun, but as I’ve seen in Ornish Lifestyle Medicine, the benefits of a good community go deeper. You’ll find your cheerleaders and your problem-solvers. Friendly rivalry can be a boost, too. Community builds the self-esteem that fuels dedication by reinforcing the five insights you need to stay on track.

Feeling the benefits will motivate you
People feel better when they exercise, but it may take months before you notice you’re happier, sleeping better and have more energy in your day. The strength-training study found that realizing the connection between exercise and well-being is what keeps you coming back. Supportive peers and trainers will help you get through the early stages, when the first signs of better health may not be consistent or obvious.

Committing to a fitness routine improves your health habits
Opting into health tends to be a package deal. In the strength-training study, women who kept up their workouts had better eating habits and were generally more active than women who had stopped.

Your supporters will help you pinpoint obstacles
People often get frustrated and forget why they lose steam. Your supporters at home and at the gym can help you pinpoint obstacles like pain or baffling equipment, and work around them.

Your trainer and teammates will help measure progress
A good trainer will give you a program that allows you to succeed early on. You’ll see measurable gains, becoming more confident as you go. People quit when they feel they’re failing. Some arrive feeling inadequate and others with inflated expectations, but your trainer and teammates can be your reality check.

Your community will help you see the big picture
A thoughtful trainer, exercise buddies and friends and family can remind you why you’re at the gym—whether you want to lose weight, run your first marathon or remain active well into your retirement years

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