The benefits of social fitness
In their early years, children are encouraged to play with friends or siblings as much as possible. Mostly because it’s fun, but also as a way of developing essential motor skills and enjoying the health benefits of being active.
As children grow older and begin primary school, being active transitions from playdates to playgrounds, and then onto pitches as more organised team sports take a bigger role.
The prominence of team sport continues into secondary education, but then starts to diminish, with only 39% of 25-34 year olds participating in sport at least once a week (Sport England). But why does this happen as we grow older?
Somewhere along the line, for a lot of young adults, being active becomes less about having fun with friends and more about striving for that elusive, Instagram-friendly, bikini body. The problem is, for most people, this becomes a solo pursuit which is all too easy to abandon after a short while (or a holiday).
I think more group exercise is the answer for most people. A study from the London School of Economics earlier this year, found that doing exercise in a team or group, not only has health benefits, but also can boost long-term happiness.
There are definitely pros to group activities, with the most obvious one being accountability: you can easily make excuses to yourself for not doing that gym session or going for that run, but it’s a lot harder to let down your friends without a really good reason. As a member of a group, you take on a responsibility which can be what keeps you coming back each week.
Another huge benefit is the social interaction that group and team sports give you. This helps individuals develop an identity and sense of belonging, which are not achieved when exercising alone. This is particularly true for millennials, with 59% of men and 40% of females saying they played sport because they enjoyed meeting new people and socialising (Sport England).
Group exercise doesn’t have to mean playing traditional, competitive team sports though. The same benefits can be achieved in a class environment with an instructor, such as Zumba, spinning or boxing. The new craze for these group fitness classes is in a nightclub environment, with loud music and darkness getting the endorphins pumping in a similar way to dancing the night away in a club with friends, but without the alcohol! The explosion of park runs, and mass-participation events also reinforces the desire for people to get their exercise as part of a group, even when they are doing an individual activity.
However, if a team sport where matches are played is your thing, then companies such as Go Mammoth or Get Active London will organise fixtures and teamsm as well as provide all the kit you need for a fixed fee.
Whatever your goal is, the main aim is about being happy in what you’re doing, as well as keeping fit. So, if that means a dance class with your friend is more enjoyable than meeting a team once a week to play netball, then take your pick, there are so many options to explore. The main thing is to find what works for you, and do it consistently, to start reaping the health and wellbeing benefits.