Sport as a community experience

For many people, sport is a solitary experience. There are those who only go running with their headphones on and those who, even attending more crowded environments such as a gym, simply focus on themselves, their breath, their efforts and their thoughts. However, in recent years, different training communities have arisen, especially for runners and cyclists, but also in different gyms that have decided to give much more space to this kind of initiative.

What does community experience mean?

There is no single definition to summarise the concept, but several founders of these groups tried to explain it in a simple and intuitive way. Without bothering philosophers and sociologists, it is enough to say that a community is something that is born spontaneously, that cannot be created artificially or by force. It is born and evolves naturally, through a common sense of solidarity, empathy and sharing. Of course, you can fix it, shape it to your needs, as long as there is always a common goal at its base, even if faced individually, and a shared team spirit. According to a study conducted by the Protein Journal, most of the people in these groups are aware that in order to create a community spirit, it is necessary for everyone to work to help and support others in pursuing their goals.

Sharing objectives in sport

The community spirit has always been present in sport: just think of Tai Chi and Yoga, two disciplines that combine philosophy and collective spirit as crucial components for their practice. Both of these activities can be practiced alone, but are always considered more effective, both by teachers and students, when practiced in groups. Motivation? For many it’s the smiles at the end of a session.

In the past years there has been a real explosion of community running groups in all the big cities of the world: people have rediscovered how effective and fun it is to practice sport altogether.

Responding to some research interviews, 53% of people in some of these groups said that the meaning of "community" in that context refers to the sharing of common values: as happens between friends or good neighbours, the same can happen in sport.

Gym and community

The gym is perhaps the place more than any other that is favourable to this type of activity. In these cases, the "group effect" is very much in force: group training would bring more results and benefits while also discouraging the so-called "abandonment effect". While the reason is simple, it has not always been considered so obvious: whatever the goal you want to achieve by going to the gym (for instance lose weight, tone and sculpt your body, or become stronger), it is very easy to throw in the towel when you are alone and the results are slow to come. It's easier to make a mistake or not give 100% if there's no one to encourage or support you; and it's here that the benefits of group fitness come to the rescue.

Stress and group: antagonists in sport

According to a study by the University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine, training together makes people feel better both physically and mentally than working alone. Researchers have found that working in a team can reduce stress by about ¼, significantly improving quality of life. Although those who train individually have the perception of being more engaged, their stress levels do not undergo significant changes, as in those who take different approaches.
For this specific study, the researchers recruited 69 students of Medicine, known for their high levels of stress and poor work-life balance, and offered them several 12-week training programmes. Whatever programme they chose, they should have followed it either in a group or alone, self-managing from start to finish. Those who chose to work in groups showed significant improvements in all measures of quality of life. In particular, the greatest benefits were achieved in mental well-being, emotional stability and falling stress levels. On the contrary, there were no significant changes in those who chose to train alone, except for a slight increase in mental well-being, which was still lower than that of those who worked in groups.

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