You might want to grab a couple of friends and head down to the gym this week for some really intense training, as a new study has shown that exercising in a group can decrease your stress levels by more than 25 percent.
The research is published in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association and suggests that while those who exercise alone might put in more work, exercising in a group could have some important benefits.
"The communal benefits of coming together with friends and colleagues, and doing something difficult, while encouraging one another, pays dividends beyond exercising alone," explained research leader Dr Dayna Yorks from the University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine. "The findings support the concept of a mental, physical, and emotional approach to health that is necessary for student doctors and physicians."
In the experiment, 69 medical students exercised either alone or in a group. The researchers chose medical students as they are known for dealing with high levels of stress and “self-reported low quality of life”. The medics were given the choice of exercising in groups or on their own throughout a 12-week period.
During the research, the students were monitored every 4 weeks by completing a survey that involved rating their perceived stress levels and quality of life. The groups of students did a core strengthening and functional fitness workout called CXWORX for 30 minutes at least once a week, whilst the students who worked out alone could choose their own fitness programs, such as running or weightlifting.
The medics that chose to team up with their course mates saw a positive change in three quality of life measures. Mental health improved on average by 12.6 percent, physical health increased by 24.8 percent, and emotional health saw the biggest boost, improving by 26 percent. Stress levels also decreased by 26.2 percent.
Those who did exercise on their own worked out for twice as long, and saw no significant changes, apart from an 11 percent improvement in their mental quality of life. Meanwhile, a control group, who avoided exercise other than walking and cycling for transportation, showed no change in stress levels or perceived quality of life.
"Medical schools understand their programs are demanding and stressful. Given this data on the positive impact group fitness can have, schools should consider offering group fitness opportunities," said Dr Yorks.
"Giving students an outlet to help them manage stress and feel better mentally and physically can potentially alleviate some of the burnout and anxiety in the profession."
So, if you're looking for a way to decrease your stress levels, scheduling a weekly work out with your friends might just help, and of course, make you look and feel great.