Group exercise ‘boosts happiness’

It increases levels of feel-good endorphins

Exercising together appears to increase the level of the feel-good endorphin hormones naturally released during physical exertion, a study suggests.

It has long been known that physical exertion releases endorphins and that these are responsible for the sometimes euphoric sensations experienced after exercising. But researchers from Oxford University‘s Institute of Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology found this response was heightened by the synergistic effect of exercising together.

The team carried out tests on 12 rowers after a vigorous workout in a virtual boat. Those who trained alone withstood less pain – a key measure of endorphins – than those who exercised together.

As well as potentially improving performance in sport, the researchers speculated that this endorphin release may be the mechanism that underpins the sense of communal belonging that emerges from activities such as religious rituals, dancing or laughing.

Lead author Emma Cohen said: ‘The exact features of group activity that generate this effect are unknown, but this study contributes to a growing body of evidence suggesting that synchronised, coordinated physical activity may be responsible.’

Carole Seheult, a sport and exercise psychologist from the British Psychological Society, said the findings were entirely credible.

‘We know from experience that exercising in groups is good for people at many levels, it’s motivational, it’s social. Groups sessions really do work.’

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