At the height of the pandemic, we saw the world divided into two camps: those who leaned on exercise, and those who leaned on the couch. No judgment here; both paths stem from what we were all collectively experiencing. Low dopamine levels—a symptom of extreme isolation—are neurologically demotivating. So what explains the difference between those who craved exercise, and those who avoided it altogether? There are certainly issues of access, privilege, and time. But one aspect that plays a major role in maintaining a healthy relationship to fitness is community.
As social creatures, humans are programmed to share experiences with others, just as we are programmed to move our bodies each day. We at TA value our bodies’ primal right to move and to connect, as the Tracy Anderson Method celebrates sharing moments of movement together. This begs the question: What are the benefits of shared exercise?
Having a gym buddy is common for a reason: A little accountability goes a long way. This is mainly due to the fact that working out with someone involves commitment. It’s a special kind of peer pressure that’s actually positive, curbing the urge to miss a workout or quit altogether.
But even further, studies have shown that exercising with others has unique health benefits that aren’t achieved through solo workouts. Some claim that training with others not only enhances consistency, but also duration, motivation, and inspiration. Given that low dopamine levels are neurologically demotivating, we know that not exercising can lead to a cycle of avoidant behavior and depressive states. On the other hand, dopamine is released when we exercise and when we engage in socialization, making situations that involve both extremely motivating.
Heightened Body Function
While any form of exercise is inherently stress-relieving, a sense of community in fitness is particularly effective at reducing chronic stress in the long term. In a study around the relationship between community and long-term health, researchers found that increased social connections “offer individuals social and psychological support” and foster “feelings of mutual respect, a deeper sense of self-esteem, and reduced chronic stress.” By lowering stress, social cohesion heightens our psychological functioning, boosting our mental and physical performance.
Another benefit of community-based exercise is behavioral synchrony, which is when you’re in a group in which everyone moves in sync with one another. One revelatory study found that people who practice this form of socially coordinated movement actually develop a higher pain tolerance, allowing them to reach new fitness levels. Another experiment found that synchrony behavior in exercise enhances anaerobic performance—the body’s ability to complete short bursts of intense exercise that break down glucose without using oxygen.
We’ve discussed how socialization benefits our relationship to exercise, but what about the other way around? It’s been proven that shared exercise can actually boost the quality of our social connections. We know that shared experiences can deepen friendships, but one study even found that people “draw closer to others who are instrumental in achieving their social, occupational, or health-related personal goals.” This means that by embarking on a fitness journey with someone, you can actually deepen the relationship. If you’d like to turn an acquaintance into a friend, or perhaps rebuild a strained relationship, consider inviting them to join your next workout.
Ultimately, we at TA value a lifestyle that supports total-body wellness. Approaching exercise and connectedness as integrated practices encourages us to live a more balanced life. It’s not about plugging in workouts and social moments into your schedule—it’s about celebrating the holistic possibilities of health and connection, and seeing every day as an opportunity to move and connect.