Strength in numbers

June 30 2015

Some things in life are often better when shared with others, and exercise is no exception. By tapping into your own exercise network, you could see better results – and have a lot more fun than you would going it alone.

As humans, we’re hardwired to enjoy collective activities such as dancing, laughing and dining together. They flood our brains with endorphins – the ‘feel good’ chemical – helping you feel more comfortable and connected to those around you, which in turn can make you feel more resolute in achieving shared goals. According to a study from the University of Oxford’s Institute of Cognitive & Evolutionary Anthropology, the same is true of exercise.

Four ways to harness the power of the group:

1. Rope friends and colleagues into your weekly workouts – a great way to do this is by entering your own team into a local sports league. The pre-match planning will keep you motivated, and the accountability to your teammates will keep you honest and on track with your exercise.

Insider tip: Setting up a shared group on social media will help everyone keep updated on your team’s progression.

2. Push yourself to keep up with the instructor in classes at the gym. Training with people who are ahead of you in terms of fitness or technique automatically encourages you to up your own game.

The science bit: This is known as the Köhler effect: we instinctively push ourselves beyond our usual limits so we don’t appear to be the weakest link in the group. It’s a great method for increasing our fitness – just be careful of overdoing it.

3. Partner up with your partner. Studies have found that couples who resolved to make healthy lifestyle changes together, including increasing their exercise, were three times more successful than those who went it alone.

Date night: Schedule your workouts in advance and plan treats for afterwards, like going out for dinner or to see a film. You’re less likely to try and avoid a session if you’ve known about it for a while, and this way you can reward yourself for your hard work.

4. Rely on the kindness of other gym members. Don’t be afraid to ask a fellow gym-goer to spot you during your strength training – chances are they’ll be happy to help and eager for you to return the favour.

Keep it friendly: This is also a great way to meet other gym-goers, as lots of people exercise alone but would welcome a workout buddy.