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31 Oct 2017

Group exercise better at reducing stress than solo workouts – study
BY Rob Gibson

Group exercise participants reported a 12.6 per cent improvement in mental health and 26.2 per cent reduction in stress levels

Group exercise participants reported a 12.6 per cent improvement in mental health and 26.2 per cent reduction in stress levels
photo: Shutterstock

Working out in a group lowers stress by 26 per cent and significantly improves quality of life, according to a new study.

Researchers at the University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine recruited 69 medical students – a group known for high levels of stress and self-reported low quality of life – and allowed them to self-select into a 12-week exercise programme, either within a group setting or as individuals.

The results, published in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, showed those who exercise individually put in more effort but experienced no significant changes in their stress level and a limited improvement to their quality of life.

“The communal benefits of coming together with friends and colleagues, and doing something difficult, while encouraging one another, pays dividends beyond exercising alone," said lead researcher Dayna Yorks.

Every four weeks, participants completed a survey asking them to rate their levels of perceived stress and quality of life in three categories: mental, physical and emotional.

Those participating in group exercise spent 30 minutes at least once a week in CXWORX, a core strengthening and functional fitness training programme.

At the end, their mean monthly survey scores showed significant improvements in all three quality of life measures: mental (12.6 per cent), physical (24.8 per cent) and emotional (26 per cent). They also reported a 26.2 per cent reduction in perceived stress levels.

By comparison, individual fitness participants were allowed to maintain any exercise regime they preferred, which could include activities like running and weightlifting, but they had to work out alone or with no more than two partners.

On average the solitary exercisers worked out twice as long, and saw no significant changes in any measure, except in mental state (11 per cent improvement). A control group also saw no significant changes in quality of life or perceived stress levels.



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