February 02, 2023 4 min read

Water based exercise undoubtedly yields numerous health benefits, but participating in group aquatic workouts brings additional benefits.

Do you prefer to embark on fitness journeys solo, whether at the gym, on the road, or in the pool? Alternatively, do you find your motivation surging during a bustling group fitness class, where synchronized movements and collective energy fuel your progress? Regardless of your exercise inclinations, maintaining physical activity proves invaluable, particularly considering the vast number of Australians who fall short of recommended national exercise standards.


Research indicates that if you usually opt for solitary exercise, you might inadvertently forego certain health advantages linked to group fitness.  Exercise have long been associated with various mental health benefits, such as enhanced sleep, improved mood, heightened libido, increased energy, and sharper mental acuity but a study published in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association explored the results of group exercise verse solo excercise on medical students, a high-stress demographic. 

The study involved 69 medical students who were divided into three exercise groups:

  1. Group Exercisers: Engaged in a weekly 30-minute training regimen, with the option to supplement with additional workouts.

  2. Solo Exercisers: Worked out independently or with up to two partners at least twice weekly.

  3. Control Group: Partook in minimal exercise, primarily walking for transportation.

The researchers assessed participants' perceived stress levels and overall quality of life (encompassing mental, physical, and emotional aspects) at the study's commencement and every four weeks after that.  At the study's outset, all participants registered similar levels in these mental health measures. Over 12 weeks, the group exercisers displayed improvements across all three dimensions of quality of life and a notable reduction in stress levels. In contrast, solo exercisers exhibited advancements solely in mental quality of life, even though they dedicated approximately an hour more each week to exercise than group exercisers.  For the control group, neither stress levels nor quality of life underwent substantial changes by the study's end.

Group exercise doesn't just have mental health and quality of life benefits. Research also shows that the healthy actions of others rub off on us, providing motivation and an improved physical result. A study published in the Journal of Social Sciences found that people gravitate towards the exercise behaviours of those in the group around them. And a 2016 study published in the journal Obesity found that people tend to lose more weight if they spend time with their fit friends. The more time they spent together, the more weight they lost. 


Further research has delved into group exercise's effects on social cohesion, pain tolerance, and athletic performance, particularly those involving synchronised movements. In a 2013 study in the International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, volunteers were engaged in 45-minute rowing machine sessions. Post-session, participants who rowed in synchronised groups demonstrated greater pain tolerance than their solo counterparts. Notably, pain tolerance elevated irrespective of whether participants argued with familiar teammates or unfamiliar individuals.

Researchers posit that heightened pain tolerance may be attributed to an increased release of endorphins – colloquially known as "feel-good" hormones – due to the synchrony of movements during exercise. This synchronised movement, termed behavioural synchrony, is also observed during other group activities, including play, religious rituals, and dance.

Furthermore, synchrony can potentially augment athletic performance, mainly when existing social bonds among group members are strong. A 2015 study in PLoS ONE unveiled that rugby players who synchronised their movements during warm-up exercises displayed enhanced performance on subsequent endurance tests. These athletes were part of a closely-knit rugby team, and researchers speculate that synchronised warm-ups reinforced their social connections, ultimately influencing their perception of fatigue-related discomfort and enabling improved performance.

The researchers postulate that synchronised movements altered the athletes' perception of pain and fatigue, allowing them to push past their perceived limit and achieve better results.

The phenomenon of coordinated movement within a group setting extends beyond just athletics. It can offer an avenue for increased performance and social bonding, particularly for those already connected within the group.


Paul Estabrooks, a behavioural health professor at the University of Nebraska Medical Centre, underscores the pivotal role of the exercise context in determining the impact of exercise on factors like quality of life, social interaction, physical benefits, and adherence to exercise routines. A 2006 review by Estabrooks examined 44 previous studies comparing the outcomes of varied exercise contexts. These contexts encompassed home workouts (solo or supervised by a health professional), standard exercise classes, and "true group" classes, characterised by techniques to foster social bonding within the class. Remarkably, the proper group classes yielded the most favourable results. Without heightened social connection, standard exercise classes yielded outcomes akin to at-home exercise with occasional guidance. Solitary home workouts ranked last in terms of benefits.

In general, the level of contact and social support during exercise – be it from researchers, health experts, or fellow participants – correlated with the extent of benefits.

Estabrooks emphasises that group-based fitness classes excel when employing strategies rooted in group dynamics. Such strategies involve:

  • Setting collective goals
  • Facilitating feedback exchange
  • Promoting dialogue among participants
  • Integrating friendly competition
  • Fostering activities that nurture a sense of belonging and distinctiveness.

It's worth noting that only some exercise classes adhere to these principles. Many group fitness classes lack the interactive components that contribute to heightened benefits. Participants often show up, follow the instructor, interact minimally, and depart.  While group fitness classes offer added benefits, it's essential to recognize that only some are inclined towards high-energy results the instructor and class programming is key.


There is no surprise the community on the Sunshine Coast are seeing such great improvements in their health and wellness after attending group water cycling classes with Water Resist. The water cycling classes are designed not only for physical and mental benefit of the water but also around group dynamics, synchronisation and community support.


Ultimately, whether it's by immersing yourself in a sweat-inducing group water cycling class or embarking on a solo lap swim, maintaining an active lifestyle is far superior to a sedentary one. However, if you can get to your nearest Aquatic Centre or Recreation Centre for a group aquatic class the health and wellbeing benefits are worth the drive.

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