Team concept helps keep you moving

The first step on the road to a healthy lifestyle is making up your mind to take that journey. Getting started is actually the easy part. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle requires more effort. Many people possess the ability to exercise independently. They make visits to the gym a regular part of their week and they rarely miss them. And believe it or not, there are people who actually use their home treadmill for more than just a clothes rack. The majority of us, however, benefit most from working out with a partner, small group, or in a class setting. Being surrounded by supportive individuals with a common goal makes the journey to staying healthier much easier.

Group fitness classes have significant benefits, since they are usually scheduled at times convenient for the majority of the members (early morning, lunch, and evening). Classes offer a variety of styles, and are appropriate for a variety of fitness levels, from the beginner to the more advanced participant. Experienced staff members lead the classes, demonstrating proper technique in the execution of moves. This not only prevents injury, but ensures maximum effectiveness. Individuals with little fitness experience gain confidence under the instruction of a professional staff member.

Another benefit of group fitness is the opportunity it provides to develop new relationships with others who have a common interest. When developing new relationships, the exercise class begins to feel as much like social time as workout time. Fellowship is an important component to group exercise classes. This accounts for the popularity of team sports and other group fitness endeavors like run/walk clubs, cycling clubs, master swimmers and swim teams.

Operating on this same principle, team weight loss challenges have grown in popularity over the years. In a team weight loss challenge, individuals usually partner up with someone they know through a family, friend or work connection. They come together with a common goal of losing weight through eating healthier and exercise. They encourage each other, hold each other accountable, and in some cases have the opportunity to win money, which can be a huge initial motivator for some.

This team concept works. Research has shown that people who exercise together are much more likely to stick with a fitness routine than those that go it alone. While friends and family members can be a threat to your efforts to eat healthier, they can increase your success when they participate along with you. No one wants to be the lone ranger, munching on carrot sticks while the rest of the family eats steak. When families eat healthier together, or friends meet for healthy meals and exercise, the road to weight loss is not quite as lonely and difficult.

If you haven’t had a lot of success in the past with your attempts to live a healthier life, you might consider becoming involved in a group effort. This may mean finding a workout partner from among your family, friends or co-workers, taking a healthy cooking class with your spouse, or taking part in a team weight loss challenge. Whether your group is you and your buddy or a class of twenty-five people and an instructor, you will benefit from having other individuals supporting your efforts.

Groups help motivate you to show up for an exercise session even when you don’t feel like it. They provide companionship during those long cardio sessions. Having a friend next to you to talk with while you slave away on the elliptical or go for a walk can make the time fly by. Knowing your new friend in the Kettle Bell class is also grunting and groaning, helps you know that you are not alone and you can get through it together. Even commiserating on how sore your legs are from the squats from the last workout is comforting.

Finally, another benefit of working with a group involves the concept of friendly competition. Let’s be honest — we as human beings like to compete with one another. When exercising alongside others, or taking part in a weight loss competition, you will challenge yourself in ways you would not do on your own.

So, what type of “group” do you feel would work best for you? Your long term healthy lifestyle goals will be more achievable and long lasting with the “group.” Find one that works and stick with it.

Mary Ganzel works at the Albany Area YMCA as senior program director.She has a master’s degree in exercise physiology from the University of Kentucky and has worked in the fitness industry for more than 25 years.She’s been certified through multiple national organizations over the years as a personal trainer, exercise test technologist, health promotion director, group exercise instructor, Cycle Reebok instructor and Pilates instructor through Cooper Institute, American College of Sports Medicine, American Council on Exercise, Aerobic Fitness Association of America and the Young Mens Christian Association.