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The Single Most Effective Way to Work Out Every Day, Say Psychologists

Research shows that group fitness—even if it's virtual—is the better way to go.

We all know that regular exercise is crucial to your health, general wellbeing, and your longevity. But if you're looking to maximize your workouts both psychologically and physically, a growing body of research suggests that you shouldn't be exercising as a lone wolf. As two notable exercise researchers just wrote in The Washington Post, upwards of 40 percent of "regular exercisers" prefer to work out in group classes, and there are tons of reasons why you should consider joining them. "Exercising in groups may have particularly beneficial benefits," write L. Allison Philips, Ph.D., a professor of psychology, and Jacob Meyer, Ph.D., a professor of kinesiology, both at Iowa State University.

What follows are many of the reasons why going the group route—whether it's outside with others (following proper social distancing and mask-wearing, of course) or even joining a virtual class from the comforts of your own home—is the more effective way of working out every day, according to both Philips and Meyer, as well as some of the latest studies. And if you're in the market for more great fitness advice, consider these Sneaky Little Ways to Burn More Fat Every Day, According to Experts.

You'll find exercise more fun.

friends walking

According to a study published in the journal APA PsycNet, working out with others can simply be more fun. "Specifically, during classes in which exercisers' perceptions of groupness were relatively higher, exercisers reported more recalled enjoyment, affective valence, and exertion," says the study. In other words, the study participants' workout experience was much more positive—and much more effective overall. And for more exercise inspiration, make sure you're aware of The One Workout That Burns Fat Faster Than Any Other, According to Science.

You'll perceive exercise in a more positive light.

spin class

"Psychology and exercise researchers like us know that people are influenced by those around them in a few different ways," write Philips and Meyer. "If you get to know others who exercise regularly, you start to perceive exercise as more positive, common, desirable, and doable."

They cite a study published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, which found that better physical activity—and healthier eating habits—are actually contagious. "Knowing other people who lift weights or take a spin class influences your explicit and implicit attitudes—your thoughts and feelings—about exercise," write Philips and Meyer. "It also molds what are called social norms—your perceptions about whether other people exercise and if you think you should."

In short, partaking in a group fitness class can make you far more motivated to work out.

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You'll focus less on arbitrary goals.


Philips and Meyer note that if you're working out simply to attain a new figure on the scale, your desire to exercise and be healthy may flag once you've achieved the goal. "Exercising with others can make the whole process easier and more habitual," they write. "Friends can be your cue as well as your reward for exercising."

In other words, the act of working out can be an end in itself, and not necessarily the means to an end.

You'll lose more weight.

workout class

A 2016 study published in the journal Obesity found that people who are overweight have a higher chance of dropping weight if they surround themselves with a social network that is fitter than they are. Also, the more time overweight people spent with their fit friends, the more weight they were reported to lose. Talk about a win-win. And for more pressing healthy living news, make sure you're aware of The One Habit That Can Cut Your Life Short by 28 Years, According to Health Experts.

William Mayle
William Mayle is a UK-based writer who specializes in science, health, fitness, and other lifestyle topics. Read more about William