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Working out together

Group exercise reaps benefits on all levels, studies show

Created date

March 22nd, 2018
Riderwood residents can stay in good shape by participating in a variety of group fitness classes offered at the on-site fitness center. (From left) Melvin Sage Bassett, Fred Nee, Tracy Fowlkes (fitness coordinator), Kenneth Mah, and Lois White.

Riderwood residents can stay in good shape by participating in a variety of group fitness classes offered at the 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 increases your motivation to attend 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 longer in the presence of others.

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 Riderwood’s on-site fitness center, where community members can choose from among seven different group classes.

Classes range from Strength & Cardio Circuit, where participants rotate to different stations that focus on strength, cardio, balance, and flexibility, to Total Body Fitness, a class that uses weights and bands to strengthen the entire body. There are also low-impact classes like chair yoga and a balance class.

“The residents like walking away feeling that they got a good workout, and they enjoy learning more about what body part they are working with each exercise,” says Paula Butler, Riderwood’s fitness manager. “This is a large campus and most of the residents do a good amount of walking, but they are always looking for something to complement that. They feel that the classes do a good job.”

No excuses

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

What’s more, while many health clubs are expensive, participating in exercise classes at Riderwood doesn’t break the bank. Residents can pay $24 a month for unlimited classes, or $14 a month for two classes each week.

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

“Group exercise classes provide structure and guidance so participants perform the right exercises safely, with the added benefits of social connectedness and motivation from the residents’ peers,” Butler says. “They develop connections in these classes that keep them coming back, and they hold each other accountable for showing up. Consistency is one of the biggest factors in exercise, and attending classes makes this easier.”

Professional guidance

Riderwood’s three fitness coordinators, Tricia Walsh, Tracy Fowlkes, and Chris Hynson, teach the group fitness classes. The fitness coordinators each bring their own unique knowledge, experience, and personality to their classes.

Additionally, Butler says, classes are small enough so fitness coordinators can offer guidance on the proper way to perform exercises and can provide modifications for people who have an injury or need special attention.

“Residents can get a good and effective workout without needing to know a whole lot about exercise because they are guided through it and monitored by a professional,” Butler says.

Irma Sheon moved to Riderwood about five years ago. She attends the Total Body Fitness class at Riderwood three times a week.

“What I found out about myself is that if I have something on my calendar, particularly if I paid for it, I will be there,” Irma says.

Getting to the classes is convenient, which Irma says has helped her stick with her exercise routine. Plus, she says the physical and mental boosts she gets from the workouts keep her coming back.

“When I get there, everything else is out of my mind,” she says. “My mind isn’t wandering, and it’s a wonderful break.”