Strength in Numbers: Exploring the Benefits of Group Sports and Exercise Classes
Written by Peer Educators Zoë Wind and Erin Joos
Exercise is great. But exercise in a group? That HIITs different.
At this point, many of us have heard about the health benefits of exercise. Exercising can improve sleep, reduce anxiety, improve heart and brain health, reduce cancer risk, and provide all sorts of other benefits. Even small amounts of movement provides benefits and these benefits increase the more you move.
As beneficial as individual exercise can be, there is something about exercising with others, as part of group fitness classes, running clubs, or team sports, that can be even more fun!
Benefits of group fitness classes
- Convenience. When you workout alone, you have to plan your routine which can sometimes be overwhelming. Attending group classes at the Pulse eliminates all that extra planning. Instructors create well-planned classes with accommodations for people at every fitness level. Equipment is usually provided, so all you have to do is show up in comfortable clothes, with appropriate footwear and follow along!
- They are good for every skill level. The Pulse fitness classes are designed for students, which means they are planned with all skill levels in mind. Instructors will teach you everything you need to know, including how to use the equipment and do each exercise using proper form.
- Great environment. Fitness classes provide a supportive and encouraging environment that allows you to work out and even push yourself physically. Between the music, the kind (and often energetic) instructors, and the participants all there with similar goals, the vibes are great!
- It is easy to see improvements. While some registration classes get progressively harder as the term goes on, many classes maintain the same level of difficulty, so you can note your progress as you nail new poses, lift heavier weights, spin with more resistance, or move at a faster pace.
- Building confidence. Navigating the Pulse and physical activity in general can be a little intimidating, especially as you are just starting out. In group classes, you can ease into the experience, get guidance from a certified Fitness Instructor, be inspired by those around you and eventually push yourself in new ways. These group classes can be a great way to build or increase your confidence!
- It is fun! Fitness classes are a great way to try new workouts and ways of exercising. If you already hit the gym, group classes can be a great place to find new exercises to incorporate into your workout routines. Sure, lifting weights is great, but have you also tried Zumba? It is important to have a mix of different types of physical activity, and more than that, to ENJOY the ways you choose to move your body!
Pulse fitness classes:
The Pulse offers both drop-in weekly classes, as well as semester-long classes. The drop-ins are included with your gym membership, while the series classes usually have fee with a student discount. Classes offered include yoga, Zumba, weightlifting, spin, martial arts, and more.
As a member of the McMaster women’s Ultimate Frisbee team, I have had loads of experience with the power of team sports. When I joined in my first year, the team supported me physically, emotionally, and mentally. We train together, improve together, and compete together. There is something so powerful about working with a group of people to achieve the same goal, and when you combine it with all the endorphins of exercise and being outside it is just magical. The team structure helps me stay consistent too: there is no way I would be getting up at 5am without a group of people expecting me and keeping me accountable. By playing with my team, I am able to do much more than I could on my own, and I know this is the experience of many athletes.
You do not need to be a varsity athlete to get the benefits of team sports either. McMaster intramurals provides tons of fun leagues to play in, whether you are a free agent or signing up with a team. In my first year, I signed up as an inner tube water polo free agent and had an absolute blast with a bunch of fourth years who welcomed me onto their team. It is a great way to meet people, get active, and have tons of fun while doing it.
Ways to play team sports at Mac:
- Intramurals are a fun and cheap way to play. Playing for a team for the season usually costs about $10-$30/person, depending on the sport and team size. There are tons of sports offered, including classics like soccer and basketball, as well as less common ones, like innertube water polo and spike ball. They also offer learn to play nights and one-day tournaments.
- Sport Hamilton. Hamilton also has all kinds of community sports leagues, including accessible sport leagues, martial arts, and multi-sport leagues. The Sport Hamilton website is a directory for most of the leagues and organizations in the city.
Additional ways to get active with others
Getting active should not feel like a chore. At a university with so many great options, and there is something for everyone, especially if you want to get active with others. Here are some of the great opportunities available to us as McMaster Students.
Additional group movement opportunities:
- Walk in nature. Every Thursday from 12:30-1:20, health promoters from the Student Wellness Centre run a 50-minute guided hike through Cootes Paradise. This is a great way to get outside, get active, meet new people, and learn some mindfulness exercises.
- Off campus fitness classes. There are lots of businesses surrounding McMaster that offer fitness classes. Some fun ones include:
- Powerhouse Kickboxing in Westdale. This all-female kickboxing studio runs kickboxing fitness classes for all levels and lets you try your first class for free.
- Allure Fitness in Westdale offers pole, aerial, and yoga classes for all levels. They also offer some student discounts.
- The Ballroom. Also in Westdale, this dance studio runs drop in dance nights, including styles like Salsa, Bachata, and Ballroom dance. They also run classes for a variety of levels.
- And plenty more places in the community. Around Mac you can also find CrossFit studios, Pilates practices, all sorts of private gyms, rock climbing gyms, and more.
CDC. (2023, August 1). Benefits of Physical Activity. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/pa-health/index.htm
Lee, D. H., Rezende, L. F. M., Joh, H.-K., Keum, N., Ferrari, G., Rey-Lopez, J. P., Rimm, E. B., Tabung, F. K., & Giovannucci, E. L. (2022). Long-Term Leisure-Time Physical Activity Intensity and All-Cause and Cause-Specific Mortality: A Prospective Cohort of US Adults. Circulation, 146(7), 523–534. https://doi.org/10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.121.058162Physical Activity, Physical Health