Struggling with the best way to start an exercise routine? Don’t worry, just join a group exercise class.
Not only do trained instructors tell you exactly what to do, but you’ll tend to perform better in a group environment because of something called the “efficacy effect,” which holds that watching other people doing something increases your belief in your own ability to do it too.
Group exercise is also more fun.
University of Oxford researchers found the endorphin effect of exercise — also known as “runner’s high” — was twice as high for team rowers as solo rowers.
Here are the main reasons group exercise is ideal for beginners.
1. No guesswork in your training
When you train in a group, you’re doing a workout that’s been tested on lots of people before you. Instructors don’t make up stuff as they go but generally teach set routines that have been created by exercise physiologists, so they have enough head space to monitor your form, technique and progress.
“As a member, you don’t have to think about what you’re going to do. The instructor decides that for you and leads you,” says Nicole Grainger, whose been teaching group classes at Fitness First for 15 years.
2. You experience the flow
There’s a kind of herd mentality that drags you through the workouts at a tempo and intensity that you’d be hard pressed to achieve if you trained alone.
People get so caught up in the moment that nothing else seems to matter and a common phenomenon in a class is that you lose track of time. That 60 minutes of exercise feels like 30 minutes, making training far more enjoyable.
3. Lots of others won’t be fitter than you
In any group class there will always be people whose fitness levels are not so different from your own, so you’ll never stick out as the klutz who’s not keeping up. And when someone’s one or two levels above you, they can become a benchmark, driving you that little bit harder so you can catch them.
4. You’re more accountable to others
When you get a group of people together, a community begins to form and its members start expecting you to show up for each class.
It’s hard to give the gym a miss if you’ve got a friend that’s going to be disappointed if you don’t show up.
“People in the class pick up when someone’s not there, and then perhaps they’ll even reach out to the absentee via text or Facebook and ask where they were. So you develop this accountability,” says Nicole.
5. Group classes are fun
Group class instructors are often frustrated entertainers, so they’ll try and make the classes fun.
“If exercise isn’t fun for me and I’m not having a good time, I’m really not inclined to want to do it,” says Nicole.
“The motivation to do it is just not going to be there. I don’t mean that it has to be laugh-out-loud fun, but as a group fitness instructor I always try and bring an element of humour to my classes.
I always make sure that no matter what I teach, everyone has a really good time and walks out happy and feeling like they’ve accomplished something.”
6. Halfway to personal training
A group class gives you many of the benefits of personal training, without the steep cost.
Even if you’re just starting out, instructors will make slight adjustments to the class on the fly to accommodate your lack of experience while still making it challenging for everyone else.
There are little things in every single movement, rep and exercise that instructors can manipulate on the spot to suit your progress.