Why a fitness community is the best way to keep active

Edgary Rodriguez

BY Edgary Rodriguez

22nd Sep 2022 Wellbeing

Why a fitness community is the best way to keep active

Stuck in a fitness slump? Joining a fitness community can help you stick to your exercise goals and make keeping fit feel fun and sociable

For many people it is difficult to maintain a workout routine, but having a sense of community can help with discipline and motivation, avoiding emotional slumps.

We don't have to do it alone—results from fitness groups around the world are showing how having the presence of others by our side can improve our performance.

Staying committed can be a challenge for many, especially when the body will be sore for the first few days.

However, "it is much easier to stay motivated when you are joining familiar faces, building relationships and enjoying social interaction at the same time," says Hannah Shackleton, founder of The Community Yoga Project, based in Braunton, North Devon.

Making fitness fun, not a chore

Many people want to live a healthier life, yet few make the decision to change the lifestyle. "These groups are open to everyone, so people have the opportunity to exercise if they don't like going to the gym," says Luci Martinez, co-organiser of an outdoor fitness group in Alicante, Spain.

While we can encourage ourselves to improve our physical appearance, the best method for staying consistent is to stick to a routine we love. Toned legs and a defined abdomen may come—or not—but feeling good while exercising can completely change how we perceive fitness and our physical health.

Pao Strickland—founder of Latinfitflow, based in Atlanta, US, recommends looking at all kinds of workout formats and when you find the one you like, stick to it. "There is a rainbow of options out there," she says. "Something you enjoy doing will make you last and stay. Looking good is just the icing on the cake."

Forget the excuses

People use exercise bikes in a spin fitness classJoining a regular exercise class can increase accountability and make sure you stick to your new fitness regime

Group training is often more enjoyable, as it makes the session go faster, but more importantly: it helps to reduce excuses.

"Making plans to meet with others, share lifts and exercise together means you’re much less likely to give it a miss if you’re feeling tired or not really up for it—it's much easier to make excuses to yourself than to someone else," Shackleton indicates.

"Making plans to meet with others, share lifts and exercise together means you’re much less likely to give it a miss if you’re feeling tired"

Shared classes tend to have a set timetable. "It can’t be negotiated, put off, or moved," adds Simone Topel, yoga teacher and life coach, living in London, UK. "When they have the option to go to the same class each week, they can plan it into their routine."

In solo training we set the pace, giving ourselves the opportunity to stop, check our phone, drink water, wipe our sweat or take a break, decreasing the minutes of activity. "You would never drop out halfway or take long unnecessary breaks with other people watching," Topel says.

Socialising through community fitness

Everyone is different; some are more sociable and others more focused on their progress, but inevitably in the groups that meet every week a connection is shaped. "Communities are created when people show up on a regular basis," Topel explains.

In the same way, our social skills can improve when we regularly expose ourselves to conversations or encounters with other people.

"Communities are created when people show up on a regular basis"

According to Topel, it can provide new friendships and a sense of genuine belonging for those willing to step out of their comfort zone and have conversations with others before and after class.

"I perceive they definitely do become more sociable in class over time. The ones who have been with me for over a year, they have become real friends. I can tell how close they are, especially at their birthday celebrations," says Jose Betancourt, co-founder of Fitness Fun Machine, based in London, UK.

Spending more time in nature

Women doing community fitness yoga class in parkOutdoor fitness groups have flourished since the pandemic, when people found a new appreciation for the health benefits of spending time in nature

Once the pandemic restrictions allowed us to go outside, many people turned to open-air activities, especially when it came to fitness. It brings together the best of both worlds: imagine doing Zumba in a park, squats on a beautiful beach or stretching your body in a yoga class with the grass at your feet.

"Even when the weather is slightly dodgy, people were there at 9am on a Sunday." For Shackleton, it's a reminder to not be afraid of the weather.

"Many of our regulars also dabble in cold water swimming, so they’re definitely nature lovers. Even the ones who were a little more hesitant would soon realise that a bit of rain doesn’t hurt."

"We came up with the idea due to the pandemic. Then we decided to do it on the beach and come down one or two days a week," explains Luci Martinez in Alicante. "People would stop and see us, and we decided to invite everyone."

"Lying on the grass in savasana at the end of each session was so wonderful," says Hannah Shackleton in North Devon. "You can relax on the grass and just listen to the wind rustling the leaves of the trees. It's the perfect antidote to fast-paced screen-based living."

Groups motivate each other

It seems easier to exercise when we have people around us. "In my experience, people in my class groups are essential. When I have had the chance to teach Zumba one-to-one the class never lasts too long," Betancourt notes.

"The energy is different in spaces where a crowd is focused on the same goal"

The energy is different in spaces where a crowd is focused on the same goal and where they accompany each other. "The energy of everyone focused and putting in their best effort is palpable and electric. Great teachers —and a great playlist— can orchestrate the energy in the room," Topel says.

The changes wrought by the pandemic

As lockdown rules began to relax, many needed to find more connection with other people. With COVID-19, we became aware of everything we took for granted —including our health and the health of our family.

"The time we stayed at home made us appreciate more the simple things of socialising, exercising in groups and connecting with people," Strickland comments.

"People were quite hesitant at first. I think that running our sessions in the open air really helped people to feel confident that the risk was low," says Shackleton. The pandemic had a big impact on how people live their lives and these fitness groups helped support healthier lifestyles.

The sense of wellbeing is important during this period when many became mental and physically ill. "These gatherings are all about feeling good and self-care. These communities offer a sense of stability in people's lives," Topel says.

In the city you live in, you can find a fitness tribe that motivates, supports and empowers you to have a lifestyle that matches what you need and want. Many of these groups offer a wide variety of activities—it's just a matter of finding one that suits you.

Keep up with the top stories from Reader's Digest by subscribing to our weekly newsletter

*This post contains affiliate links, so we may earn a small commission when you make a purchase through links on our site at no additional cost to you.