Group Exercise for Pain Relief

Group Exercise for Pain Relief

Don’t you just love that precious private time, when you can put in your earbuds and hit the track for a long, solitary run?

Well, if you’re among the one in three Americans who strongly prefers to exercise alone, you might want to rethink your regimen.

New studies find there are big advantages to group exercise. The first of these experiments was done at Oxford, with the school’s internationally renowned rowing team. The crew was divided into groups of six. Each team performed a series of identical workouts. The only variable was whether the workouts were done alone or together.

After each workout a blood-pressure cuff was tightened around the participant’s upper arm until he reported pain. The results: study participants consistently showed twice as high a pain threshold after exercising with others (rather than alone), even when the workout intensity was identical.

This matters for two reasons. First, it appears that team exercise can increase pain tolerance. So if you suffer from a chronic pain condition – like arthritis, neuropathy or fibromyalgia – working out in a group may actually provide more relief pain than working out by yourself.

Second, because pain perception is an indirect measurement of endorphin levels (those feel-good brain chemicals that relieve stress and promote confidence), it seems that group exercise can actually double that terrific workout buzz.

Here’s another interesting note: laughter seems to work a lot like group exercise. In one study, volunteer participants were given a humor stimulus (a funny movie to watch). Among those who responded with “deep, spontaneous laughter” – the kind that actually makes you feel momentarily exhausted – subsequent pain tolerance went up. What’s more, those participants’ level of anxiety and their experience of other negative emotions went down.

So here’s a plan: call the funniest person you know and ask if you can work out together.

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