We’re all for enjoyable workouts, but that doesn’t mean taking it easy. If you want to unlock the transformative effects of exercise you need to push yourself out of your comfort zone and reach a state of fatigue. New research suggests that you can push further when you’ve got others by your side.
A recent study of Oxford University rowers has highlighted that those doing physical activity in team setting can tolerate roughly twice as much pain as when they exercise solo.
The study compared the pain threshold of 12 male rowers after they trained together and when they followed the same training regime individually. The first session involved the rowers splitting into two teams of six and rowing continuously for 45 minutes – their rowing machines were hooked up to a “virtual boat” that demanded their rowing was synchronized. During the second session rowers performed the same regime, but on their own. At the end of each session the rowers’ pain thresholds were assessed. Researchers did this by putting a blood pressure cuff around the arm and inflating it until it became uncomfortably painful.
When the rowers trained together they had significant increases in pain threshold – even though their power output was not significantly different.
It seems that the synchronized activity is key.
According to Robin Dunbar, a co-author and head of the Institute of Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology at Oxford, the study shows that that synchrony alone seems to ramp up the production of endorphins. It is the rush of endorphins, a feel-good chemical that is released in the brain, that dampens down feelings of pain.
The scientists speculate that a similar surge of endorphins might result in the the feel-good sensations people experience when they dance together, play team sports or take part in religious rituals.
“We have long known that exercise releases endorphins which stimulate a sense of euphoria and act as a temporary painkiller,” says Bryce Hastings, Les Mills Head of Research. “Now, thanks to this research we have evidence that you can increase the effect by training in a group.”
Hastings adds that if you’re keen to maximize the feel-good effect, a group workout that focuses on aerobic fitness could be the way to go. A 2014 study has highlighted how moderate- to vigorous-intensity aerobic training can increase pain threshold in healthy individuals.
Workouts such as BODYATTACK, BODYCOMBAT, BODYSTEP and RPM are great examples of moderate- to vigorous-intensity aerobic group training options.
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