Are you a team player? Team exercise versus solo

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It’s no secret that exercise has a lot to offer us in terms of our wellbeing. Improved mood, increased energy, weight loss and mental clarity are just some of the benefits we can expect from as little as 20 minutes of regular exercise. But with so much to gain, how can we make sure we’re getting the most out of our daily sweat sesh? Is there a right and wrong way to go about it?

Some argue the key to a great exercise session is to buddy up with a friend or a small group. At the same time, others argue that solo exercise is the way to go.

So, which is it? Well, it depends on what you want to achieve.

The benefits of group exercise are perhaps more obvious than those of solo exercise. Studies have shown group exercise works, first and foremost, as a type of social bonding. People who participate together in the same activity often develop a sense of loyalty and care for each other and the group, leading to a strong social bond. In the context of a workout session, a strong bond means members are able to encourage and help each other through difficult exercises so each member finishes well.

What’s more, a group bond means members are able to motivate each other when needed. This motivation may come through literal, verbal motivation from one member to another, or from the knowledge that each individual member is accountable to the group as a whole. Studies show, being held accountable for your actions (or lack thereof) is a key motivator for many reluctant exercisers.

In addition to bonding, motivation and accountability, group exercise also typically provides more challenge and enjoyment than solo exercise. Exercising with just three or four others allows for a wider variety of exercises to be incorporated into the routine – think partner exercises like wheelbarrow squats or medicine ball passes – while allowing for socialisation and fun during the session. Many advocates of group exercise claim exercising with friends is as good as catching up for coffee, while others claim sessions seem to finish faster due to participants having such a good time!

In terms of outcome, group exercisers tend to benefit from increased fitness and energy levels, improved mood and noticeable weight loss, with many also reporting strengthened social relationships and a greater sense of belonging.

However, for some, exercise just isn’t about making friends and getting fit. While socialisation is indeed integral for our wellbeing, many prefer to use exercise as their ‘me time’. As research has shown, solo exercise provides those with typically busy and stressful lives with a much-needed escape – physically, but mostly mentally. A run along the beach or solo boxing session in the gym gives those under stress a chance to shut out external stimuli and release negative energies through exercise. Solo exercise is known to help achieve mental clarity and stability, and also helps improve mood.

In addition, exercising alone allows you to focus purely on yourself and your own progress. Where group sessions often mean you’re left waiting on or trying to keep up with others, going it alone means you’re free to set your own pace. Through focusing more on oneself, many solo exercisers find they are able to monitor and identify their progress better, and in turn, experience greater motivation.

So, if you’re tossing up between going it solo or pairing up with a friend or two, consider what you want to achieve most. And remember, no matter what you choose, any kind of exercise is better than none!

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