Why Group Fitness Classes Are So Effective

Think of all the activities that are more enjoyable with a group of people: going to an amusement park, watching a sporting event in person, game nights, and so on. Many people also prefer to exercise in unison with others, and they have since the days of jazzercise in the 1970s, as Formula explains.

In the '80s and early '90s, step aerobics became the new group fitness trend, and in 1993, the world saw the first indoor spinning class. Millions embraced Zumba in 2001, and fell in love with yoga in 2009. Today, there are studios and gyms that offer group fitness classes exclusively, like CrossFit, while some fitness centers offer them as an option, like Planet Fitness.

Personal trainer and founder of RETROFIT Rob McGillivray told Better, "Group activity [...] has certainly seen massive international up-trends over the last 20 years with rapidly rising numbers in spin cycling, aerobic and dance-based classes, and the emergence of CrossFit and its tribe mentality."

The question is, why? Why are group fitness classes so effective? What is it about them that draws so many people in so many places?

They provide accountability and motivation

Group fitness classes offer benefits that an individual exercise doesn't, including accountability. Many group fitness studios such as Orangetheory Fitness offer classes at specific times and require you to book them in advance to secure your spot. This studio will even charge you if you cancel less than eight hours before class begins, according to a Membership Agreement.

HYLO Fitness uses the same policy "to hold members accountable," as explained on their policy page. Other studios have their own late cancel policies that involve a fee, all for the sake of accountability. Not all fitness studio members are fans of these policies, but others claim they do work to get them into the studio, based on a Reddit user's confession.

Another benefit of group fitness is the motivation factor. A Journal of Social Sciences study published in Psychology Today revealed that social influence can encourage exercise behaviors. For example, if a man is in a class where everyone is doing the same workout, simply watching them exercise near him is likely to motivate him to do the same.

John Gardner, a NASM certified personal trainer and the co-founder and CEO of Kickoff, told Verywell Fit, "Group training is a great way to find motivation and actually enjoy your workouts." And of course, if you have friends at your fitness studio, that only amplifies the likelihood that you'll be held accountable and stay motivated during your workouts.

They foster competitiveness and confidence

If you visit any place where there's a large group of children, chances are high that you'll see at least two kids racing or competing in some other way. It's just in our nature to want to be the fastest, the strongest, the best, or to at least be better than a few people. The reason? Extrinsic motivation. We're taught at a very young age that there are often rewards for being the best at something, even if the reward is just praise, as Healthline explains.

When it comes to exercise, having a healthy level of competitiveness can push you to work harder than you would if you were alone. John Ford, a certified exercise physiologist, told Better, "Seeing what others are capable of doing can inspire you to do more."

And even if you don't finish that 2000-meter benchmark row faster than the person next to you, you can still take pride in the fact that you worked your butt off and did your best. You can still develop confidence with your achievements. That confidence can give you the mental fuel you need to stay committed to your workouts and feel strong and powerful, as WebMD explains.

Group workouts are effective because they provide accountability and motivation while also fostering healthy competitiveness and confidence. So if you've never tried a group fitness class because you don't think you'll enjoy them, you might be surprised with the outcome if you commit to a few sessions.