Will a group environment help me to exercise?

While in the past years training has been simply either on your own or one on one with a personal trainer. Group training has been more popular lately. One of the biggest reasons for this is support. You are more likely to do your workout with a group of people helping you and cheering you on than if you were on your own. The energy each person gives you to keep going and to help keep up with your goals is huge. Plus the fact that in a group setting things seem to be more fun and entertaining for all. So these type of group training programs will definitely help you exercise and keep you accountable.

First, you have to be comfortable with yourself and then you can focus on an environment that is engaging and people that are supportive. 

If you are not comfortable with where you are right now with your weight, your size, ability/conditioning or your overall level of fitness a group atmosphere could be a real setback. Basically, it comes down to confidence. Are you ready to be out amongst the members of a health club? If so, then go get 'em!

If not, don't sweat it. We would like to believe that a group environment like a health club should have a supportive atmosphere filled with people who share a commonality; their health. Many health clubs and workout facilities nowadays make a major effort to provide an encouraging atmosphere. However, that is not always the case and one bad experience can send a person in the complete opposite direction of better health and fitness. So take care when deciding where you will workout and whom you will be surrounded by.

Tour a few facilities before committing to any one, especially since most make you sign a contract that obligates you for a year or more. Most offer a 3-7 day pass so you can test out the facility and see if it suits you. During that time, take a look around; do you see people in a similar state of health and fitness, with similar goals, like yourself? Do the trainers, instructors and support staff seem to be engaging the members? Assisting them? Guiding and supporting them? Or are they just standing around the juice bar looking pretty and hoping someone will come to them and throw money at them. If they are, then they are not proficient at providing for your wants and needs and you should move on.

If you come to a point where you feel that you are not ready for a group environment then maybe start a group of your own. Get a few friends together. Maybe contact your doctor to find out if he has patients that would want to participate in exercise and get together with them. Start a small fitness club. Maybe twice a week you meet for workouts at one of the members' house. Maybe once a week, meet in the park for a group walk. You will only be limited by your imagination and will to succeed.



Darren Treasure, PhD
Sports Medicine
Although there are definitely people who like to exercise on their own, research has shown that people who workout with a partner or in groups are generally more successful in adhering to an exercise program than those who try to do it on their own. It seems that a workout partner or the group environment provides social support and a sense of belonging in what is often a very challenging task. It is important, however, to choose a group that is similar to you in terms of age, gender, exercise experience and stage of behavior change. Research has shown that being in a group that is similar to you enhances your connectivity to the group and self-confidence that you can be successful. In addition to the characteristics of the group itself, it is important to consider the characteristics of the fitness professional leading the group and the exercise environment itself. In the same way that being similar to the group is important, the age/gender/appearance of the fitness professional has also been found to be an important predictor of successful adherence to an exercise program. In addition, what does the group exercise environment look and feel like? For example, research has shown that middle-aged women, particularly those just starting an exercise program, typically do better in single sex groups that exercise in rooms that are not mirrored.        

A collaborative group environment can provide a sense of belonging, social support and accountability which is beneficial in promoting exercise. However, some group environments are a source of social comparison which make some people uncomfortable. Find the right group for you by testing out a few and determining how you felt within each group. Did you feel confident? Or were you less inclined to work hard because you felt self-conscious? If you feel good in a group and find yourself wanting to participate more - that is more than likely the group for you!

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.