Alberta Cancer Foundation

Strength in Numbers

Illustration by Mai Ly Degnan.

Finding the drive, and time, to work out can be a challenge. But choosing a group training class might make working up a sweat easier.

Christina Collins is one of the owners of F45 Riverbend, as well as the soon-to-open Jasper Place and downtown studio, which offers a group fitness workout called F45. The 45-minute class focuses on high-intensity interval training and provides a full-body workout by incorporating a range of cardio and strength exercises. While the workout is efficient and effective — a single F45 session can burn more than 750 calories — Collins also loves the supportive and social elements of the class.

A 2012 study found that working out with a partner increased participants’ motivation to exercise.

“We always end our classes with high-fives and team cheers,” says Collins.

She’s also seen how the F45’s group dynamic leads to greater accountability and improved athletic performance.

“When you’re working out next to someone, you want to do your best,” says Collins. “There’s a friendly competition and motivation to work hard in group fitness classes. And you’re more likely to stick with the program. You’re more likely to turn up — and keep turning up — to workouts when the group expects you.”

The science supports Collins’ observations. A 2012 study found that working out with a partner increased participants’ motivation to exercise. These results show individuals who trained on a stationary bike next to a partner spent double the amount of time working out as those who did so solo. Group training can also lead to exercising at an increased intensity — especially if you think you’re surround by better athletes. A study out of Kansas State University found that working out with a partner who you think is a stronger athlete leads to an increased effort and intensity during the session by as much as 200 per cent.

Group exercise classes might also benefit your training routine in the long run. An analysis published in the International Review of Sport and Exercise Psychology examined 44 individual studies, each of which looked at committing to an exercise routine. It found strong evidence that people are more likely to stick to a workout program when it involved a group.

Collins says that an instructor-led group session also makes showing up easier because the workouts are diverse and expertly planned.

“With group workouts, it’s harder to get stuck in a fitness rut,” she says. “Someone has already planned a great workout for you, and you just have to give 100 per cent.”

Illustration by Mai Ly Degnan.

4 group training classes to try

1. F45

How it works. This 45-minute circuit and high-intensity interval training workout includes exercises like chin-ups, burpees, agility ladders and boxing exercises, which can be modified for different fitness levels. No two sessions are the same, and the supportive team spirit will keep you amped.

Where to try it. F45 Riverbend Edmonton

2. Group rowing

How it works. This group workout is similar to a spin class, except instead of stationary bikes, participants use rowing machines. After a gentle warm-up, fitness instructors lead the group through a full-body, low-impact session.

Where to try it. Kinetic Indoor Cycling and Fitness, Lethbridge

3. Bungee fitness

How it works. Bungee Fitness is part dance class and part acrobatics session. Participants wear a harness clipped to a bungee cord, which is suspended from the ceiling. As the group is led through a choreographed workout, the cord gives movements extra spring and height.

Where to try it. Bungee Workout Canada, Calgary

4. Pound Fit

How it works. As well as incorporating exercises designed to challenge your cardiovascular fitness and work on your muscular strength, each participant makes music using lightweight drumsticks called Ripstix. The class works together to create a rhythmic, acoustic beat while feeling the burn.

Where to try it. GoodLife Fitness Huntington Hills, Calgary,;

Many gyms and fitness studios also offer virtual workouts via live streams. Be sure to ask your local gym what options it might have!

Illustration by Mai Ly Degnan.

Join a (virtual) group workout

If you don’t have time to make it to a group session in-person, find support through a digital community instead.

1. Nike Training Club

Connect with friends over this app and work toward achieving Nike Training Club’s various milestones and trophies.

2. Zwift

This app is part video game and part workout tool. On your screen, you’ll see your avatar running or biking whichever route you choose, even though you’re indoors. Zwift’s group events and races show others’ avatars working out alongside you.

3. Peloton

Peloton livestreams a variety of instructor- led workouts, and Peloton Challenges connects you with others using the platform so you can commit to goals together.

NOTE: This piece was written before COVID-19 when physical distancing measures were not yet enforced. We hope to see you all back exercising in groups soon.