Sleeping, going to the bathroom, having conversations — these are things I like to do alone. Exercise, on the other hand, has just never been one of them. To me there’s nothing as exciting as bringing a pal to my favorite yoga class or bonding with fellow dancing queens and kings during a ballet barre workout.
I’m always on the lookout for new ways to exercise in a group, especially activities that don’t feel like the awesome workout they really are. Here we’ve rounded up 24 group workouts as varied as Dance Dance Revolution, kayaking, and the Suzuki acting method (hint: it involves a lot of stomping). For those who prefer a solo workout sesh or love being part of a team, there’s bound to be something for everyone.
Team Effort — Your Action Plan
Group workouts aren’t just about being able to hide in the back corner where the instructor can’t see us. People who work out with a partner (even a virtual one!) are generally more motivated to exercise than those who go it alone Two-playered partner exergame for obesity prevention: using discrepancy in players’ abilities as a strategy to motivate physical activity. Feltz, D.L., Irwin, B., Kerr, N. Department of Kinesiology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan. Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology 2012;1(6):820-7.. One study even found certain athletes could tolerate higher levels of pain during exercise when surrounded by teammates Rowers’ high: behavioural synchrony is correlated with elevated pain thresholds. Cohen, E.E.A., Ejsmond-Frey, R., Knight, N., et al. Institute of Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK. Biology Letters 2010;23(6):106-108.. All these effects might have to do with the fact that we put on our best performance when other people are watching Aerobic exercise is promoted when individual performance affects the group: a test of the kohler motivation gain effect. Irwin, B.C., Scorniaenchi, J., Kerr, N.L. Kinesiology, Michigan State University, IM Sports-Circle, East Lansing, MI. Annals of Behavioral Medicine 2012;44(2):151-9.. But impressing Zumba classmates with hips that don’t lie isn’t the only kind of group fitness.
The 24 exercises below are for the rugged (get on those hiking boots), the yogis (plus their flexible friends), and the techies (hey, Wii sports). Got a workout planned for this week? Try one of these!
The Great Outdoors
1. Hike it out. Trail mix, swanky boots, a great tan… oh, right, and a serious workout. On a free weekend, get a group of friends together and head for a beautiful outdoor trail. It’s pretty obvious all that walking and climbing adds up to a great cardio workout, but hikers also tend to be happier and may even enjoy life more than the rest of us. Friends not crunchy enough? Make some new ones in one of these hiking groups.
2. Kick it on a kayak. Row, row, row that boat. Every stroke is another step toward physical fitness. An unexpected low-impact workout, kayaking is a perfect way to appreciate the Great Outdoors while strengthening the arms and core and burning hundreds of calories. Find fellow aquatic exercisers in some of these groups.
3. Make waves. The crash of the waves against jagged rocks, the splash of foam against the sides of the rubber boat, and no one’s thinking about the unbelievable health benefits of white water rafting. Rafters get an arm, ab, and core workout and can burn about 300 calories an hour. Plus every raft brings home some awesome group memories.
4. Bust out the bike. There’s nothing like feeling the wind in your hair and seeing it in someone else’s. Biking is great for cardiovascular health, building muscles, and even strengthening the immune system. Plus guys who bike to work tend to be extra-happy Effect of the physical activities in leisure time and commuting to work on mental health. Ohta, M., Mizoue, T., Mishima, N., et al. Department of Health Development, University of Occupational and Environmental Health, Kitakyushu, Japan. Journal of Occupational Health 2007;49:46-52.. So find some other cycling enthusiasts or just grab one or two pals and hit the road.
5. Rock on. Talk about trust-building exercises. Try dangling from a cliff (in appropriate equipment, of course) and waiting for someone to grab your hand. Beginners might want to start on an indoor rock wall and then move on to the real thing. Some of the best benefits include improved aerobic fitness and stronger muscles.
6. Pretty up the park. Parks all over the USA are always looking for volunteers, so sign up today to help preserve nature. Whether it’s carrying heavy trash bags or squatting to pull trash from a lake, saving the earth is a group effort and a team workout.
7. Keep it green. Go green and make friends with the trees. You can even make friends with some people, too, while caring for trees or planting new ones. Besides helping the environment, interacting with nature may even improve our attention span and boost ladies’ self-esteem The cognitive benefits of interacting with nature. Berman, M.G., Jonides, J., Kaplan, S. Department of Psychology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI. Psychological Science 2008;19(12):1207-12..
8. Run for someone’s life. For those who haven’t heard, running is a great form of exercise. And there’s even more motivation to run when it’s part of a social good effort. Forget that “I think I can” mantra — there are a ton of charitable causes worth running for, from fighting homelessness to raising money for cancer research. Join a team today and start training to run or walk the race.
9. Be a bro (or sis). If exercising for your own health isn’t good enough, try working out for someone else’s. The Big Brother/Big Sister Sports Buddies group partners adults and kids who bond over basketball, soccer, and other kinds of activities. Here’s one example of a Sports Buddies site — find one near you and help put a big smile on a kid’s face.
10. Do it for the dogs. One of the biggest benefits of having a dog is getting some exercise while walking them all over town. Plus it’s a way to pick up dates — er, meet new friends — in the neighborhood. Join a dog-walking group or volunteer to take a pooch for a stroll through an animal shelter.
11. Get workin’ at the car wash. Scrubbing, bending, and climbing to get those wheels squeaky clean might be just as much of a workout as hitting the treadmill for a few minutes. Get a group together and spend an afternoon taking turns washing each other’s cars. Just 30 minutes of suds-ing up can burn about 150 calories. Bikinis and water fights optional.
Mind and Body
12. Om out. Partner yoga is based on the importance of touch — and we’re talking the PG kind here. So bring a pal (or prepare to make some new ones) and find a class near you. If partner exercises aren’t your thing, locate some local yoga lessons or get a group of buds together to follow a podcast. Less stress, better balance, and a stronger bod are just too good to pass up.
13. Never let ’em see you sweat. Self-defense classes help prepare the mind and body against potential threats. Learn from the instructor and from classmates while getting a great workout. Muay Thai, Krav Maga, and Judo are just a few styles of self-defense that offer lessons all over the globe.
14. Find your chi. For a slower style of exercise, try Qi Gong. It’s an ancient Chinese meditation practice that focuses on breath and balance. (Qi Gong classes even include some athletes.) Or test out tai chi, a form of Chinese martial arts that involves a lot of gentle movement and stretching and helps relieve stress. Both types of exercise can strengthen bones and improve cardiopulmonary fitness A Comprehensive Review of Health Benefits of Qigong and Tai Chi. Jahnke, R., Larkey, L., Rogers, C., et al. Arizona State University College of Nursing and Healthcare Innovation, Phoenix, AZ. American Journal of Health Promotion 2010;24(6):e1-e25..
15. Synch or swim. Is there anything that says “team effort” more than a group of people in identical outfits doing the same dance routine? Synchronized swimming isn’t just for ladies in pink bathing caps — it’s an Olympic sport! Memorizing all those routines is intense exercise for the mind and repeating the movements means a big workout for the arms and legs. Some YMCAs offer synchronized swimming classes so find one near you.
16. Dance like everyone’s watching. Travel to Spain, India, or the mean streets with a dance workout like tango, bhangra, break dancing, or Zumba. Learning some new moves is a great way to get a glimpse of another culture and meet new buds, all while getting in some serious cardio SALSA: Saving Lives Staying Active to Promote Physical Activity and Healthy Eating. Lee, R.E., Mama, S.K., Medina, A., et al. Texas Obesity Research Center, Health and Human Performance Department, University of Houston, Houston, TX. Journal of Obesity 2011: 436509. Does partnered dance promote health? The case of tango Argentino. Kreutz, G. Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester, UK. The journal of the Royal Society for the Promotion of Health 2008;128(2):79-84..
17. Be a tourist, oui? Those double-decker buses may look fancy, but for the real workout, hop off and hoof it! Grab the friends, the fam, and any stragglers on the street and see the sights on foot. Walking may not be an intense workout like running, but it can still improve our cardiovascular fitness while busting stress. Check out some of these foot-friendly cities in the U.S.
18. Step up to Suzuki. This Japanese method of drama training isn’t as well-known as say, puppet shows, but some actors swear by it. The exercises focus on the whole body, so there’s lots of moving to music, shouting, and bonding with fellow confused classmates. Not for the faint of heart.
19. Make history. For history nerds (er, experts), reenacting the Civil War or the Oregon Trail is just about the coolest thing ever. But reenactment groups aren’t all about the brain. No one took cabs or trains back in the day, so be prepared for a lot of walking, running, and gallant galloping on horses. A reenactment group in thy town awaits thee.
20. What’s up, Wii? We’re not advising anyone to become a tech-lovin’ shut-in, but some Wii sports can make a big difference in cardiovascular fitness. The games are way more exciting with a friend, so grab a pal, get into some workout gear, and prepare to get pumped up. We love working up a sweat with tennis and boxing.
21. Roll out. All you need’s a scrunchie and some pogs and you’ll be traveling back to the 90s in no time. Roller blading may not be the latest craze anymore, but any kind of inline skating is a great workout for the arms and legs and an even better bonding activity. When winter hits, head to the ice skating rink for some chilly together time.
22. Be a baller. The shoes are cool, the pizza’s deliciously gross, and the arcade prizes are tempting. Bowling alleys are great for some laid-back hangout time that doesn’t involve vegging out in front of the tube. Plus, swinging those heavy balls strengthens arm muscles and helps improve balance and flexibility. Join a local league (Zog Sports has them in four cities) or compete against friends to see who really needs those bumpers.
23. Start a revolution. A Dance Dance Revolution, that is. There’s no better way to bond with friends than competing to see who’s got hotter moves. Shake it like a Polaroid picture in public with other gamers or forgo the potential humiliation and snag the Wii version.
24. Pick it up. For those who wish we still played stickball out on the street, here’s the answer. A bunch of different apps, like Sportaneous, show users where pick-up sports games are happening, so they can hit the baseball field, tennis court, or basketball hoops when the urge hits.
Any favorite group workouts we missed? Share them in the comments below or tweet the author at @ShanaDLebowitz.