Exercising in groups reaps more benefits

Monday April 12 2021
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Group exercise can turn working out into a fun social activity, which will motivate you to keep going back. Photo | Roland D. Nasasira

By Roland D. Nasasira

When you decide to work towards a fitness goal, you will most likely prefer to engage in minimal exercise but achieve your goal within a short time. For example, someone may decide to jog every day for a month but when they do not see any change, there are high chances they will give up. Most people forget that achieving one’s fitness goal is a combination of exercise carried out over a period of time.

When Ruth Adong gave birth to her third child in October 2019, she weighed 97 kilogrammes up from the 70 kilogrammes she weighed before conceiving. She could hardly fit in any of her clothes, she says, and hated how she looked in the mirror. She had thought breast feeding would help her lose some weight but in vain.

“I set a goal to lose weight and become fit again. The challenge was how to do it. I tried juicing where I would blend different vegetables and cactus but their taste was so bad that I gave up. Besides, I was not losing any weight yet I wanted quick results,” Adong recalls.

Aerobics
When she could not lose weight through juicing, what came to Adong’s mind were aerobics classes. But not only did she hate sweating a lot, she also hated working out too much. She wanted a fitness routine to give her quick results much as she was aware it would not come easily.
Adong enrolled for aerobics classes every Monday at 5:30pm at Tango-7 Fitness Centre in Entebbe with four friends who were also mothers.  

“The first three Mondays were difficult. We experienced muscle pain because we were our own trainers and used to imitate YouTube videos. After about 15 minutes, we would be tired and would spend the rest of the time just sitting and talking about our babies and homes,” she adds.  

Goal setting
Seeing that they needed to get more organised, Adong agreed with her colleagues to each come up with their ideal weight to work towards. She personally set a goal to lose eight kilogrammes in two months. She recalls that the only way she and her colleagues were to achieve the weight loss and fitness goal was to take the classes seriously. They also decided to get a trainer with whom they shared their goals and the period they wanted to achieve the goals.

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From five people, the number soon grew to 15. After a while of consistent workout, Adong and her friends felt a difference.
“I lost eight kilogrammes in eight weeks and my friends had also significantly lost weight. With the positive result, I was excited and decided to work out every morning for 20 minutes. I also started taking two litres of warm water every morning and we set up a WhatsApp group to monitor each other’s progress. We did not change meals because most of us were breastfeeding. We just stuck to working out every Monday for an hour,” Adong says.

The power of numbers
According to Mahad Mukiibi, a fitness trainer, using video clips to exercise limits you on how far or long you can go regardless of whether you are exercising as a group or an individual. A video clip will play for approximately 10 minutes yet you could have gone longer if you were under the guidance of a trainer.  

“The best way to exercise as a group is to get an instructor to guide you. They (trainer) know your goals and determine how far you can go and the exercises to subject you to in order to achieve your targets,” Mukiibi advises.
Adong adds that there is a push you get when you exercise in a group compared to when you are alone.

“Your friends will always nudge and remind you of your goal. They keep you focused and help you see the future. But with groups, you always have a workout partner to check on and remind them about when next to work out,” Adong says.

Lucky Jesse Kwesiga, who also exercises in a group at Tango-7 Fitness Centre, says exercising as a group is fun. When you exercise alone, there is no motivation but when you are many, time passes without noticing. Being happy, Kwesiga explains, is one of the preliminary things that contribute to body wellness.

“Group exercise is a form of accountability. As you work out, someone is able to observe that you are achieving your target by physically examining your body. When you miss out for a day or two, they will check on you to find out how you are doing and encourage you to keep going,” Kwesiga adds.

Beyond accountability, you also build friendship with exercise partners. Because most of the exercises you do are outdoors, there will be exercises such as sit-ups where you need an exercise partner, especially if you are doing it for the first time.

Working out with others keeps you accountable and drives you to try new things you wouldn’t try on your own. Figure out which group works best for your preferred methods of working out and individual style.

Improve pain tolerance
One study surveyed people exercising on rowing machines and found they improved social bonding, pain tolerance and performance when they rowed in sync with one another. Working out in a synchronized way improves mental health through the social aspects alone, and it also enhances athletic performance for the activity.

When we don’t feel good enough

Do you ever have times where you wonder, “Am I good enough”? If so, you are not alone. Experiencing feelings of inferiority, inadequacy, worthlessness, and just not feeling “enough” can be immensely challenging and painful.

Whether these feelings are elicited by periodic situations or involve more ongoing challenges that might accompany a history of trauma or mental health challenges such as depression, these feelings are experiences that many people face.

In addition to the already uncomfortable affective responses of experiencing the age-old question of “Am I good enough?”, feelings of inferiority and worthlessness can lead to challenges in motivation, feeling competent, performance, connecting with oneself and others, depressed mood, feelings of powerlessness, and feelings of hopelessness. Yet, there is hope.

Using self-affirmations
Not feeling good enough is like looking in a mirror that is clouded and does not give us a clear image of what we are seeing or who we are. So, how can we uncloud this mirror? One method that psychological research offers is the use of self-affirmations, which are positive statements about the self that reinforce our positive characteristics, abilities, skills, or values.

Self-affirmations may help to decrease feelings of powerlessness, help us see past the challenge in front of us, increase our self-competence, promote a positive self-image, reconnect us to our core values, and foster positive emotions.

How to utilise self-affirmations for support
If you struggle with the question “Am I good enough?”, here are some ways that you might be able to support yourself:

Remember this question does not define you:  In other words, your worth does not depend on if you feel it or not. Meet yourself with compassion and kindness.

● Participate in self-affirmation activities: A simple activity you can do might involve writing positive notes to yourself on sticky notes that can be placed somewhere that you will see often.

Reaching out to a therapist: If you notice that this is an ongoing struggle for you, remember that you are not alone. Above all else, may you remember that you are not alone, and you have immeasurably more value than your thoughts or life experiences might be telling you. When you do not feel good enough, that mirror you are seeing is just clouded and not giving you the full picture, but it does not have to stay clouded forever.  
Source: psychologytoday.com

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