Power in numbers

Study finds group exercise reduces stress more than solo workouts do

Group exercise participants experienced a 26 percent reduction in stress and improved mental, physical and emotional quality of life.

The more, the merrier.

Researchers found working out in a group lowers stress by 26 percent and significantly improves quality of life, while those who exercise individually put in more effort but experienced no significant changes in their stress level and a limited improvement to quality of life, according to a study published in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association.

“The communal benefits of coming together with friends and colleagues and doing something difficult, while encouraging one another, pays dividends beyond exercising alone,” said Dayna Yorks, DO, lead researcher on this study. “The findings support the concept of a mental, physical and emotional approach to health that is necessary for student doctors and physicians.”

Medical students are known for having high stress levels, high anxiety and a self-reported low quality of life. Dr. York and fellow researchers at the University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine recruited 69 medical students and allowed them to self-select into a 12-week exercise program, either within a group setting or as individuals. A control group abstained from exercise other than walking or biking as a means of transportation.

Group exercise participants spent 30 minutes at least once a week in CXWORX, a core strengthening and functional fitness training program. At the end of the twelve weeks, their mean monthly survey scores showed significant improvements in all three quality of life measures: mental (12.6 percent), physical (24.8 percent) and emotional (26 percent). They also reported a 26.2 percent reduction in perceived stress levels.

Solo workout participants were able to select their desired form of exercise, including running or weight lifting, with the stipulation that they would work out alone or with no more than two partners. The study found that those working out on their own worked harder and worked out for longer, but did not experience any significant changes in any measure except mental 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.”

For further information on the study, visit the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association.

Leave a comment Please see our comment policy