- Group exercise improves mental health, physical health and reduces stress in medical students.
- Exercising individually was not associated with a reduction in stress levels when compared to group exercisers.
- Stress levels of a person affect their physical activity habits.
While some prefer working out alone, some love the company of others and enjoy working out in a group. A recent study has found that working out in a group lowers stress by 26% and improves quality of life.
The study also finds that those who exercise individually put in a lot of effort but that did not reduce their stress level and showed a limited improvement in 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 Dayna Yorks, DO, lead researcher on this study.
Exercise Regularly To Reduce Stress
The purpose of the study to conduct among medical students is that, their studies can be stressful and can affect mental health. Another factor is that, doctors always recommended a physically active lifestyle and so they are looked upon as a role model for a healthy lifestyle.
So, for the study 69 medical students who are a group known for high levels of stress and self-reported low quality of life were recruited. They were asked to choose between a twelve-week exercise program, either within a group setting or as individuals. The control group abstained from exercise other than walking or biking as a means of transportation.
Those who participate in group exercises, spend 30 minutes in CXWORX, a core strengthening and functional fitness training program at least once a week.
Every four weeks, all the participants completed a survey which was used to assess their levels of perceived stress and quality of life. They were categorized as: mental, physical and emotional.
At the end of the twelve weeks, the quality of life measures improved in those who exercised as a group. The participants experienced
- 12.6% improvement in their mental wellbeing
- 24.8% improvement in physical health
- Emotional health boosted by 26%
- Stress levels took a tip by 262%
Individual fitness participants also had an exercise regimen that they preferred, which included activities like running and weight lifting. They were asked to work out alone or with no more than two partners.
The solitary exercisers worked out twice as long, and saw changes in mental quality of life with an 11 percent increase. Similarly, the control group saw no significant changes in quality of life or perceived stress.
"Medical schools understand their programs are demanding and stressful. Given this data on the positive impact group fitness can have, schools should consider offering group fitness opportunities," said Dr. Yorks.
"Giving students an outlet to help them manage stress and feel better mentally and physically can potentially alleviate some of the burnout and anxiety in the profession."
How Does Physical Activity reduce Stress?
There are relationships between stress and physical activity (PA) or exercise. PA repels the negative effects of psychological stress. On the other hand, stress can hamper the motivation to exercise.
Adolescence, a crucial phase that brings in changes through all possible means including physical, emotional and social can be stressful. This can in turn change the eating pattern and the physical activity levels.
Focusing on behavior management and techniques to cope stress in an exercise intervention can help adolescents and medical students to follow an exercise regimen that can help them stay fit and stress free.
- Dayna Yorks et al., Group exercise improves quality of life, reduces stress far more than individual work outs, The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association (2017), http:dx.doi.org/10.7556/jaoa.2017.140.
- Matthew A. Stults-Kolehmainen and Rajita Sinha, The Effects of Stress on Physical Activity and Exercise, Sports Med. (2014) doi: 10.1007/s40279-013-0090-5.