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Working out together

Group exercise reaps benefits on all levels, studies show

Created date

March 21st, 2018
Fox Run neighbors (from left) Laura Woodruff, Anne Howlett, Jerry Basista, and Jerry Scheel enjoy a yoga class at the Novi, Mich., community’s on-site fitness center.

Fox Run neighbors (from left) Laura Woodruff, Anne Howlett, Jerry Basista, and Jerry Scheel enjoy a yoga class at the Novi, Mich., community’s on-site fitness center. 


Have you ever noticed that euphoric feeling you get when you take a brisk hike with your walking group? Or how making a post-yoga coffee date with your workout buddy motivates you to go to class each week?

There’s something about exercising with other people that makes it a little easier to commit and a lot more fun. And it’s not just in our heads. Studies show attending group fitness classes has many positive effects.

Proof is in the research

A 2011 study published in the Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology found that motivation increased and people worked out for longer in the presence of others.

And group exercise doesn’t only deliver physical benefits. A 2017 study published in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association found that participants who were enrolled in a group fitness program demonstrated decreased stress and increased emotional and physical quality of life. “The possibility that the social aspects of group exercise improved [quality of life] and decreased stress also cannot be discounted,” the authors of the 2017 study wrote. “The social component of group exercise is therapeutic. Furthermore, group exercise classes often use up-tempo music and choreography to make the class more fun and engaging.”

The benefits of group exercise are clearly understood by the staff at Fox Run’s on-site fitness center, where people who live at the Novi, Mich., Erickson Living community can choose from among 15 different group classes.

Offerings range from circuit training to tai chi to Jazzercise. There are also low-impact classes like Posture Clinic, Integrated Yoga, and Mindfulness Meditation.

The fitness center also features a heated indoor pool, where residents can enjoy water aerobics classes taught by their neighbors.

“Participation in group fitness classes is a great way to stay on track,” says Alice Hixson, Fox Run’s fitness coordinator. “There tends to be a greater commitment to show up to exercise if it is always at a regularly scheduled time and you feel others are depending on you. It also has the added bonus of providing an opportunity for socialization.”

Inexpensive option

While many health clubs are expensive, participating in exercise classes at Fox Run doesn’t break the bank: resident-led classes are always free of charge.

Plus, they can try any of the staff-led classes for no cost. Once they decide to sign up, they can purchase eight-class punch cards or a monthly package for unlimited classes. They can also earn free classes or personal-training sessions when they refer friends.

Having a variety of group fitness classes available makes it more likely community members will stick to a consistent exercise routine.

“They really appreciate being taught how to do the exercises correctly and with proper alignment,” Hixson says. “It keeps them safe, helps build confidence, and they tell me they feel better.”

Location, location, location

Physically getting to the gym is usually half the battle. But for the people who live at Fox Run, that battle is a little easier because the fitness center is located just a short indoor walk from their own front doors.

“At this age, I probably wouldn’t be driving somewhere just to exercise,” says Laura Woodruff, who moved to Fox Run last summer.

But now that she lives at Fox Run and has access to the on-site fitness center, Laura exercises five times a week. She takes yoga, circuit training, and advanced balance classes.

“Today I had visited with my doctor and had a very fine report, so I have proof this is doing me some good,” Laura says.

Like most of her neighbors at Fox Run, Laura logs quite a few steps just by walking around the community each day. She says the classes are an excellent supplement to her walking routine because they help build upper body and muscle strength.

“I had not taken yoga before, and I find I enjoy it very much,” Laura says. “It’s not only wonderful for flexibility but also calming and gives you a wonderful sense of peace and relaxation. I do my best not to miss that class.”

Laura did belong to a gym before she moved to Fox Run, but she says she didn’t work out as frequently.

“I was very poor at getting over there and doing it; whereas here, we’re in
a class, we have friends, and we know we’re going to go at the same time each week,” Laura says.