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Exercising in Groups: Is It Better? (Explained)

Updated: Aug 15

Evidence-Based. Scientifically Reviewed by Michael Sharpe, MSc.

It's always good to have company when you're working out. And while it may seem intimidating, group exercise is actually an excellent way to improve your workouts.

Group fitness are fun and social ways to improve your workouts and can provide additional benefits.

group workout session

Group Workouts vs Solo Workouts

Exercise has long been recognised to offer many mental health advantages, including improved sleep and mood, and increased energy and mental sharpness. (1)

Researchers in one study investigated whether group exercise might benefit medical students, a high-stress population that could benefit from frequent exercises.

69 medical students participated in one of three workout groups for the study. (2)

  • In the first group, at least once a week, they participated in a 30-minute group core strengthening and functional fitness training programme, with additional activity if desired.

  • Another group were solitary exercisers, who worked out at least twice a week on their own or with up to two companions.

  • Students in the last group did not engage in any physical activity other than walking or bicycling to go where they wanted to go.

At the outset of the trial and every four weeks, the researchers assessed students' reported stress levels and quality of life (mental, physical, and emotional).

For these mental health indicators, all of the students began the study at approximately the same level.


The first group (group exercisers) showed gains in all three quality of life factors after 12 weeks, as well as a reduction in stress levels.

In the second group, even though they exercised an hour longer each week than the group exercisers, solitary exercisers only enhanced their mental quality of life.

By the conclusion of the research, neither the stress level nor the quality of life of the third group had changed much.

Although this research shows promising results for group workouts, the study had several drawbacks, such as its small sample size and the fact that it only included medical students.

Students were also given the option of choosing their own exercise group, thus physical or personality variations between group and solo exercisers may have influenced the findings.

As a consequence, the findings should be regarded with care. However, the study suggests that working out with others may be beneficial.


Participants in the group exercise group exhibited substantial increases in all three quality of life measures: mental (12.6%), physical (24.8%), and emotional (26%).

They also reported a decrease of 26.2% in perceived stress.

Solo workout participants, on the other hand, worked out twice as long on average and saw no significant improvements in any measure except mental quality of life (11%).

However, this study has drawbacks and should not be relied upon to provide conclusions.

Synchronised Workouts

Other studies have looked at how group exercise, particularly working out in sync, affects social bonding, pain tolerance, and athletic performance. (3)

In one study, researchers recruited participants to exercise on a rowing machine for 45 minutes.

People who had rowed in groups (in sync with each other) had a greater pain tolerance than solo rowers after the exercise. Whether individuals were rowing with teammates or strangers, their pain tolerance significantly increased.

Researchers believe that the improved pain tolerance is due to a higher release of endorphins, as a result of individuals exercising in sync with one another. Behavioural synchrony is the term for this kind of synchronised movement.

It may also happen in other group activities like play, religious ceremonies, or dancing. It may help you perform better, particularly if you're already friendly with the other members of the group.

Researchers discovered that rugby players who synchronised their motions while warming up fared better on a follow-up endurance test. (4)

These sportsmen have previously been a member of a close-knit rugby squad. The researchers believe that the coordinated movements during the warm-up strengthened their social ties.

"This may have changed athlete’s perception of the pain and discomfort associated with fatigue", the researchers write. "This allowed participants to push harder and perform better."

Not All Group Workouts Are Alike

Extraverts are more likely than introverts to enjoy group-based and high-intensity physical activities, according to one study. (6)

Some people prefer to be solo and workout alone, which is perfectly fine. Others, on the other hand, may find working out to be more about community and social connection.

Whichever way you prefer, being active is better than being sedentary. So, whether it's cramming yourself into a hot exercise class or hiking alone in the woods, choose a physical activity that you like and stick with it.

According to Paul Estabrooks, PhD, a behavioural health professor at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, "exercise context" influences how much of an impact exercise has on quality of life, social connections, physical advantages, and individuals adhering to their workouts.

Estabrooks and colleagues examined 44 prior studies that compared the advantages of various exercise settings. (5)

The exercise contexts included the following:

  • Home workouts, either alone or with contact from a health professional

  • Standard exercise classes

  • “true group” classes, where special techniques were used to increase social bonding among people in the class

The greatest advantages came from true group courses. Standard exercise courses were comparable to at-home exercise with assistance. The least advantageous workout was to exercise alone at home.

In general, the higher the advantages, the more interaction or social support individuals had during exercise, whether that was from researchers, health professionals, or other participants.

Setting group objectives, giving comments, interacting with other participants in the group, adding friendly competition, and incorporating "activities to help people feel like they are part of something - a sense of distinctiveness." are all examples of this.

This isn't something you'll find in every fitness class. Although group exercise programmes may provide additional advantages, people like different things and should experiment.


In general, group exercise classes are more effective at improving quality of life than solo workouts are.

However, there are some considerations to be made, for example; some people who are introverted prefer solo workouts, whereas those who are extroverted may prefer group workouts.

There are also special techniques that can enhance a group workout session, such as the following.

  • Setting objectives for the group

  • Giving out comments

  • Interacting with other participants in the group

  • Adding friendly competition

  • Incorporating activities to help people feel like they are part of something


This section contains links to research, studies, and sources of information for this article, as well as authors, contributors, etc. All sources, along with the article and facts, are subjected to a series of quality, reliability, and relevance checks.

Real Muscle primarily uses high-quality sources, such as peer-reviewed publications, to back up the information in our articles. To understand more about how we fact-check and keep our information accurate, dependable, and trustworthy, read more about us.

This evidence based analysis on the benefits of group exercise features 5 references, listed below.

1. Sharma A, Madaan V, Petty FD. Exercise for mental health. Prim Care Companion J Clin Psychiatry. (2006) ✔

2. Dayna M. Yorks, Christopher A. Frothingham, Mark D. Schuenke. Effects of Group Fitness Classes on Stress and Quality of Life of Medical Students. The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association (2017)

3. Philip Sullivan, Kate Rickers. The effect of behavioral synchrony in groups of teammates and strangers. International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology. (2013)

4. Davis A, Taylor J, Cohen E. Social Bonds and Exercise: Evidence for a Reciprocal Relationship. PLoS ONE. (2015) ✔

5. Burke, Shauna & Carron, Albert & Eys, Mark & Ntoumanis, Nikos & Estabrooks, Paul. Group versus Individual Approach? A Meta-Analysis of the Effectiveness of Interventions to promote physical activity. Sport Exer Psychol Rev. (2005)

6. Kerry S. Courneya, Laurie-Ann M. Hellsten. Personality correlates of exercise behavior, motives, barriers and preferences: An application of the five-factor model. Personality and Individual Differences. (1998)

Citations with a tick indicate the information is from a trusted source.


The information provided in this article is not intended to replace professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the guidance of a physician or other competent professional before following advice or taking any supplement. See our terms and conditions.

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