Get back into shape by teaming up with a workout group

Jasper Smits, director of SMU’s Anxiety Research and Treatment Program, says exercising with a group "can help increase social support, and that acts as a buffer to many stressors."

Staff Writer 

The first time Lisa Vega attempted the swimming part of a triathlon, the waves were so high she climbed into the rescue kayak. The second time, she ran into the lake, had a panic attack and ran back to shore. The third, she rolled onto her back in the water screaming, “I’m drowning!”

People told her to try another hobby. Instead, she joined Tri Junkies. Without the support of this training group, she says, her journey to successful triathlons — including an Ironman — would have been “a lonely, lonely road.” . . .

At the Jewish Community Center, group fitness director Terri Arends stresses to her instructors the importance of developing “connection, camaraderie and cohesiveness” in their classes. . .

She cites a study at Harvard University of two sections of exercisers — one that worked out as a group, the other solo. Those who worked as a group “had more benefits as far as fitness levels and endurance,” she says. “Their caloric expenditure was higher.”

Jasper Smits is a Southern Methodist University psychologist who studies exercise and its effect on anxiety and depression. “Working out in groups can help increase social support, and that acts as a buffer to many stressors,” says Smits, who co-wrote with psychologist Michael Otto, Exercise for Mood and Anxiety: Proven Strategies for Overcoming Depression and Improving Well-Being (Oxford University Press; $17.95).

“Once you get people to exercise in a group, a buddy system develops. They feel they’re held accountable by others; they’re in this together. Not showing up comes with a cost, and that’s letting someone down.”

Read the full story. (Subscription may be required.)

# # #