We’ve all heard about the physical benefits of regular exercise, but what about the social benefits of exercise? A trip to the gym can lead to better heart health, lower blood pressure, stronger, more toned muscles, as well as an array of mental benefits.
There are many physical, mental, and social benefits of exercise, but you don’t often hear about the social aspects, such as what meeting new people and learning new skills together can do for you. So, what are the social benefits of exercise? Let’s dive in!
- The Social Benefits of Exercise
- How To Reap The Social Benefits Of Exercise
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Our Conclusions
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The Social Benefits of Exercise
#1 - Boosts Your Motivation
One of the most obvious social benefits of physical activity is having others to help push you to your limits, and reach new all-time bests. Exercise can be a lonely experience, especially when all you can listen to is the voice in your head telling you to stop and give up. But having a friend say ‘you’ve got this’ can be all you need to keep going.
For those who struggle with exercise, this is incredibly important. Whether it’s to do with a physical impairment or simply not feeling comfortable at the gym, a boost of energy from a friend can give you that extra push to reach your goals. One group that may struggle with exercise is older adults, where exercise still plays an important part in health.
A recent study looked at a group with an average age of 85, and they found that when they exercised in a group setting, self-efficacy (your belief in your ability to execute a behaviour) and outcome expectations massively improved. This proved conclusively that workout regimes for older adults should always include a social element where possible.
In fact, this additional level of motivation is one of the largest benefits of group exercise, and isn’t exclusive to the older generation - people of all ages can thrive on the motivation that others provide.
Being a part of a community can provide you with the physical, mental, and social benefits of exercise, and give a huge boost to your motivation beyond the one that comes with the physical benefits of a workout, which can be handy for those finding it hard to stay committed.
If you’ve ever taken a class, you’ll know that the positivity is infectious and spreads through the class like wildfire, creating an incredibly upbeat environment for the whole class.
The social benefit of having all those shouts to push yourself, to just do one more, or simply to keep going creates amazing positive feedback loops, and this triggers the release of hormones that make you feel good.
#2 - Creates Accountability
One of the most difficult things about exercising regularly is keeping it consistent, especially if you’re new to fitness, or you’re struggling to maintain a regular schedule of visiting the gym, going out for a run, or even loading up your best fitness DVD for a living room workout.
But arranging to exercise with a friend means you’ll be keeping each other in check, with the social obligation being another reason to get out of the house and get active. Nobody wants their friends to think they’re lazy or leave them high and dry when they’re trying to do their best too.
If you create a goal and follow it up with a commitment to your friends or a local class, you’re more likely to hit your targets. Your peers will help you to stay focused and motivated, and cheer on your every accomplishment!
The social benefits of exercise and the support of a workout partner cannot be underestimated – people who ride bikes in a group tend to pedal twice the distance of single bikers, and people who joined a group fitness class reported 10% more activity only one month later.
Looking for more information on cycling to achieve your fitness goals? We’ve compiled a comprehensive list of tips on cycling for weight loss.
This social impact has not gone unnoticed by gyms - you have probably noticed an abundance of group classes and sessions for any activity you can think of, from yoga to aerobics. Even if you’re doing it with strangers rather than friends, that group mentality of feeling like you have to keep going, even if it’s becoming a bit of a struggle.
As a result, you are less likely to justify skipping a day or doing a few less reps than you would if you were alone. You’re also more likely to continue with the workouts you and your partner have set up, as these will likely be more tailored towards your individual aspirations.
#3 - Develop Teamwork Skills
A great social health benefit of exercise is that it can encourage development of your teamwork skills. Being able to work in a team is a key skill that helps us to communicate effectively with people, but it can be something people struggle with.
Maybe you feel overwhelmed in a group and end up not participating, or you always want to take the leadership role instead of learning to take a step back. Naturally, team sports can build these skills in a low-pressure, relaxed environment.
The idea of wanting to be strong for your team, be that an indoor cycling class or a dedicated running group, will always push you to go that little bit further, push that little bit harder. Explore more on running as part of a team with our complete exploration of the different British triathlon age groups.
Before you realise it, you’ll be putting in twice the effort to not only get fitter but also to show conscientiousness for others on your team.
This shows the physical, mental, and social benefits of exercise, as you will learn collaborative, synergistic teamwork, as well as gaining an identity as part of a team, a cohesive group atmosphere, and a positive team culture. Over time, this will boost the pride you feel for the team itself, and encourage working hard to see others succeed.
A knock-on effect of developing your teamwork skills is all around better communication ability, leading to increased productivity in every aspect of your life – by working towards a common goal you’ll experience less resistance, and therefore see a better output.
#4 - Enhances Your Cognitive Function
Apart from the physiological benefits that come from exercising, another social benefit of exercise is its ability to improve your cognitive functions. Consistent exercise boosts your memory and thinking skills in both a direct and an indirect way.
All forms of physical exercise act directly on the body, and trigger changes in insulin levels, reduction of inflammation, and releasing of endorphins. It can also promote the production of certain growth factors, too.
These chemicals affect the growth rate of new brain cells, impacting the health of the brain overall, and preventing age-related decline such as memory loss. These are especially effective when combined with the benefits a healthy diet can bring, and can have a far-reaching, positive impact on your overall quality of life.
Exercise prevents mild cognitive impairment by improving blood flow. Your heart pumping faster sends blood flowing around your body, increasing the amount of oxygen reaching your brain. As you get older, it takes longer to learn and recall information, so keeping your brain as healthy as possible is important.
In a comprehensive scientific study, it was found that aerobic exercise that gets your body sweating, and heart pumping boosts the size of the hippocampus, the part of the brain involved with verbal learning and memory. This demonstrates not only the physical, but the mental and social benefits of exercise as well.
The indirect effect of exercise comes from its impact on sleep, stress, mood, and anxiety. Improvements in these areas can lead to better cognitive function and concentration on daily tasks.
Another social benefit of exercise is that the parts of the brain that control memory and thinking are larger in those who exercise; numerous studies have found that poor physical fitness in middle age may be associated with smaller brain size in later life.
#5 - Promotes Healthy Competition
If you’re still wondering about the social benefits of physical activity, this point should inspire you to get out there and get working; healthy competition improves every aspect of your workout routine, and has some fantastic real-world applications outside of fitness as well.
When you frame your workout as a competition, you can create positive social norms for exercising, and can provide yourself with additional, more tangible motivation in that you want to beat those you’re competing against..
In a competitive setting, every person’s activity raises the bar for everyone else in the group, inspiring others to do at least as well as them, if not better. Pushing yourself to achieve that little more to compete alongside your peers is a fantastic social benefit of exercise, and one that’s often used in competitive formats, such as virtual running races and competitions.
Competition being a social benefit of exercise is fantastic as it can be applied outside of fitness as well. It teaches us to take risks and deal with our failures in a healthy way, helping us develop key skills such as humility and acceptance.
Once you realise that you can make mistakes and learn from them, you’ll realise that failure is a natural part of life, and necessary to make progress in whatever endeavour you’re doing, regardless of whether it is fitness-based or not.
You will also learn how to cope when things don’t go how you expect. Sometimes, you work really hard and still lose, and sometimes you win but don't perform as well as you would have liked. In these moments you’ll learn resilience and grit, two traits that are essential in daily life.
#6 - Boosts Confidence And Self-Esteem
Time and time again researchers have shown that exercise can significantly improve both our confidence and self-esteem, providing more than just physical benefits of exercise.
Most of us have experienced low-self esteem or confidence in our lives at least once, through unconsciously using negative self-talk, comparing yourself to others, and focusing on the negatives in your life while ignoring the positives.
Self-esteem and self-confidence can sometimes be elusive emotions, but thankfully due to the social health benefits of exercise, you’ll see a profoundly positive effect on both of these things.
There are a number of ways by which exercise increases our own self-image. Firstly, in the short-term, exercise enhances your mood and changes the state of your mind to a more positive one. Secondly, in the long-term, exercise makes you feel really good about your physical self, your abilities, and your physique.
And last, both in the short and long-term, completing workouts and reaching fitness goals gives you a sense of accomplishment and pride that boosts your confidence even further. Establishing the right targets is crucial with exercise, and learning how to use SMART goals is an ideal skill to develop.
A knock-on effect of boosting your confidence is that you’ll feel better all around; exercise can help you break out of bad habits like poor diet choices, being sedentary, or over-eating.
When you feel better in your body, you feel better mentally, and so you’ll be more interested in exploring new places, meeting new people, and you’ll even have more energy to take on new and exciting challenges.
Another social benefit of exercise is that you’ll gain a sense of accomplishment that will shine through with your confidence; the success of creating a great workout routine and then sticking to it can bring an amazing sense of achievement.
When you hit these goals, you gain emotional stamina to take on even bigger goals, until you feel like there’s nothing you won’t be able to do.
#7 - Helps You Deal With Negative Emotions
If you’re still wondering ‘what are the social benefits of exercise?’, this point can really show you the impact it can have. Dealing with unwanted or negative emotions is a common problem for many people, and it can be a struggle determining how to deal with these emotions.
Ignoring or repressing these anxieties and stresses is not the healthiest way to deal with them, but luckily another social health benefit of exercise is that it can improve the control that you have over those emotions.
It’s absolutely vital that we’re able to alter our mindset to gain more from our everyday actions as well as our fitness mindset. If we are unwilling or unable to think in a positive way, we only bring negativity to ourselves, instead of reaping the physical, mental, and social benefits of exercise.
One study that investigated the impact of exercise of emotion regulation ability found that after 8 weeks of intervention, implicit emotion regulation, mindfulness, and aerobic fitness level were improved.
However, only aerobic fitness mediated the intervention effect on implicit emotion regulation ability, meaning that the only way you will see results for emotional control is with fitness in conjunction with mindfulness practices. Explore more on this with OriGym’s complete overview of the benefits of meditation.
Ultimately though, combining an element of fitness with your normal mindfulness and relaxation activities is a fantastic way to compound the effects this would normally have, and help bring back some emotional stability and balance.
#8 - Builds Your Community Involvement
Joining a new team sport or group session is an excellent way of meeting new people, or growing your current circle of friends. One of the best social health benefits of exercise is that you’re all feeling the same burn, the same exhaustion, and the same endorphin rush at the end. This common ground is all that is needed to make many meaningful relationships.
This can be particularly important for those who have a very small or no social circle at all. Loneliness is a horrible condition to live with, and has many physical symptoms including cardiovascular issues, early onset of Alzheimer’s disease, increased stress, and an increased likelihood to abuse addictive substances, such as alcohol and drugs.
While these are all serious issues, the cure is simple: find an exercise or activity that you enjoy and share it with other people in a class or team. If you’re struggling with this, check out our complete report on the best running forums to help you discover an online community that’s right for you.
You don’t have to join a team sport to see the social health benefits of exercise, either, as there are groups for just about any activity you can think of. Searching through social media will help you to locate your local groups and give you a better idea of what they do. It might even be worth chatting to current members before attending to confirm the environment appeals to you.
A sense of community is an important trait for people to have as it can greatly improve our contentment in day-to-day life and benefit our wellbeing. Whether large or small, a community offers countless opportunities for growth, learning, and experience.
The environment should make you feel safe and secure enough to put your full effort into whatever you are doing, with the knowledge that your team will support you even if you fail.
#9 - Improves Mood And Mental Health
One of the best social benefits of exercise is an improved mood, as well as much better overall mental health. For common issues such as depression and anxiety, exercise can be incredibly beneficial.
We’ve explored all the mental health benefits of exercise with a complete report, but we’ll also explore the key points with this article so you’ve got a more complete picture of how this relates to the more social benefits of exercise.
It’s long been proven that, immediately after periods of physical activity (like going for a walk or run) and periods of inactivity (such as watching TV), physical exercise causes more feelings of contentedness, more energy, and an overall better mood compared to not exercising.
Regular exercise can help chronic depression by increasing serotonin levels, which regulate your mood, sleep, and appetite, as well as increasing your brain-derived neurotrophic factor (this helps neurons to grow in the brain). Serotonin also helps to reduce immune system chemicals that can make depression worse.
Moderate intensity exercise can actually be an effective treatment on its own for mild-to-moderate depression, and 16 weeks of regular exercise is just as effective as antidepressant medication in treating older individuals who did not exercise previously.
Regular exercise can also alleviate symptoms of anxiety as it diverts your attention from the thing you were worrying about, and forces your body to move, decreasing muscle tension and lowering the body’s levels of anxiety.
Another social health benefit of exercise is that your sleep pattern as well as quality of sleep will be much better; we know that getting enough sleep can protect the brain from damage.
Exercise activates the frontal regions of the brain responsible for executive function, such as the amygdala. The amygdala is our reacting system to real or imagined threats to our survival (fight or flight response) and exercising regularly will bolster the amygdala’s resistance to those negative emotions.
#10 - Increases Concentration
If you’re looking to improve your concentration, you’ve probably heard that exercise can help you focus and stay on task. It can help us to burn off excess energy, and provide our brain with additional blood flow and oxygen, enhancing our creativity and critical thinking.
Even acute bouts of physical activity, such as a 20-minute walk or jog, can enhance concentration and boost physical, mental and social benefits of exercise for up to one hour afterwards.
Even taking a brief break during your workday for some exercise can improve your concentration and mood, both of which lead to improved productivity. Alternatively, walking to work can provide a significant boost to your concentration levels in the morning.
In order to have a good level of concentration, you need two important aspects of cognitive function to be working at their best: first is the sustained attention, where you are able to focus on a piece of information for long periods of time.
Second is executive function, which is your ability to think about and make decisions at a more complex level. The social benefit of physical activity is that both of these will improve with regular exercise, providing a release valve for stress and pressure.
As previously mentioned, a fantastic social health benefit of exercise is that it makes a great defence against some of the most common mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. This can, in turn, help lead to an increased ability to concentrate, as you’ll have a much clearer mind.
#11 - Boosts Energy Levels For Socialisation
Our final social benefit of exercise is that you will have much more energy for socialisation purposes – so you can combine your confidence, communication skills, and positive mood to become much more sociable.
Regular exercise increases your endorphin levels. Endorphins are the body’s natural hormones that are released when we are doing something that requires a burst of energy. They are what helps us to move. This rush of endorphins can also help to improve your sleep quality, meaning you will feel more refreshed throughout the day.
Another social health benefit of this is an increased production of vital hormones within the body. These hormones, such as testosterone, growth hormones, and catecholamines (hormones that the brain, nerve tissue, and adrenal glands produce) help increase your metabolism and grant you more energy.
Regular physical activity increases the blood flow around your body and improves your cardiovascular health and fitness. This means more blood and oxygen will provide more energy for you.
It will also make you more efficient at utilising your body’s stores of sugar and fat as fuel for your workouts, allowing you to burn them for energy as well as regulating blood sugar levels so you won’t have to deal with the peaks and troughs that cause fatigue. All of this will help you see a big increase in energy once you start doing it regularly.
Here are 3 more articles on how exercise can be incredibly beneficial:
- 15 Health Benefits Of Walking
- 15 Fitness Motivation Tips For When Exercise Seems Impossible
- 9 Health Benefits of Plank Exercises
How to Reap the Social Benefits of Exercise
In order to see the social benefits of physical activity, the first step is to choose your form of exercise. Luckily for you, there is an abundance of options to choose from.
Whether you’re a keen swimmer, a mountaineer who loves rock climbing, or prefer to keep your feet firmly planted on the ground running, there is always a team or group available to join.
#1 - Fitness Bootcamp
A fantastic way to see the social benefits of physical activity is by signing up to a fitness bootcamp. These generally include an intense mixture of aerobic, strength training, and speed elements within each section of the class.
In the vast majority of cases, you should expect to be doing calisthenics such as pushups, pullups, lunges, squats, and crunches, as well as sprints and drills. Boot camp workouts basically consist of high intensity interval training (HIIT), which alternate between bursts of intense activity and lighter activity.
If you’re looking for a whole-body workout that targets both aerobic endurance and strength building, a fitness bootcamp might be perfect for you! They offer a more challenging, varied, and fun workout that doesn’t require any special equipment, which means anyone can join in at any point of fitness.
You’ll meet lots of different people to learn and grow with, creating a strong sense of camaraderie throughout the entire bootcamp, as well as instilling an element of healthy competition, which we mentioned earlier in this article.
As an added bonus, because bootcamp workouts are done at a higher intensity than moderate aerobic activity, you will see the same benefits, like a lowered risk for heart disease, in less time than if you were performing a moderate exercise such as walking.
#2 - Rock Climbing
Another way to reap the social benefits of exercise is through rock climbing. Rock climbing is one of the best total body workouts available as it develops lean endurance muscles – the same used by marathon runners. Rock climbing focuses on strengthening the core muscles, which stabilise the body, and lead to a stronger, less injury-prone body.
Climbing can positively affect the vast majority of your muscles, but it predominantly strengthens your hands, forearms, biceps, shoulders, abs, glutes, thighs, and calves. Your entire body benefits from rock climbing, including your cardiovascular system.
For more information on boosting your cardiovascular health, check out our total overview of the benefits of cardio and aerobic exercise.
While rock climbing is essentially an individual pursuit, it can still be regarded as a team sport as you’re never alone. You might be climbing with friends, colleagues, family, or a local team. Learning to put your trust in the person holding your support rope fosters positive, trusting relationships really quickly.
Because you cannot always be the climber, you have to learn to play different roles which help build character and leadership skills. Each climber gets the chance to be the student and learn from those around them, as well as the teacher to others.
One minute you’ll be the climber being supported by the encouragement and advice of those below you, and other times you’ll be the person holding the guide ropes, or part of the group shouting encouragement. Every achievement is celebrated in the climbing community.
#3 - Hiking
Taking a walk in the great outdoors has been a widely accepted cure for all kinds of issues, from stress and anxiety to simply feeling sluggish after a few days of no exercising. The fresh air can also help improve airflow to the lungs, and natural beauty can provide inspiration for our creative hobbies.
And walking outside does actually benefit us – like many forms of exercise, hiking can hugely improve your cardiovascular health and physical strength. So, what makes the social health benefits of exercise via hiking so good?
First of all, one of the best things about hiking is that there are essentially no restrictions on who can take part. Calling up a friend to go out on a hike for the day gives you the precious gift of face-to-face contact, and you might even choose to add an element of competition by utilising one of the many free hiking apps on the market.
Exploring nature is its own reward, and being able to get out there with a couple of friends and find areas of natural beauty is incredibly satisfying. If you don’t have any hiking buddies, there’s a wide variety of social media groups and sites dedicated to finding people with similar interests.
There are few better ways to experience the social health benefits of exercise than in the company of friends, loved ones, and even strangers, while engaging in a hike together. Chat about anything and everything that comes to mind - it’s inherently a social activity, and by inviting the people close to you, you can engage in some real quality time together.
#4 - Running
While running is often considered to be more of an independent sport, when done in a social environment with a friend or group, it actually has many social benefits.
It improves our ability to hold ourselves and others accountable for their actions (or lack of actions if you’re missing an activity), because when we set up a meeting with others, we are much more likely to show up and get in the miles we need to.
Another social benefit of this exercise is a boost to your motivation. Essentially, when we run with others, we can run much further distances at a faster pace much more easily. One reason for this is that we, as humans, are naturally motivated by social connections.
We bond through conversations that occur over the miles we run, and distract ourselves from the ‘how much longer?’ thoughts that can cause us to put less effort in. We often provide motivation to each other, and this can be through specific running motivation quotes, or simply by sharing the experience with others.
There are many physical, mental, and social benefits of this exercise, one of the best being its ability to pull you out of a running funk or low mood, and inspire you to try competing in new events, as well as gain confidence by helping others. Fitness is contagious, and when running socially we gain an instant source of motivation to push that little bit more.
Most running groups are led and taught by seasoned coaches who can answer any questions you may have and give advice along the way.
Sometimes it’s the smallest of tips that can propel you into improvement, and other times you will learn from other’s mistakes to avoid them yourself. This means you can reap all the social benefits of exercise in a safe, community-driven environment.
#5 - Yoga
Our next way to experience the social benefits of physical activity is through yoga. Yoga is a form of exercise involving breath control, simple meditations, and various bodily positions. The physical benefits include strength building, increasing your flexibility, and improved cognition, all of which are particularly useful to older people who may struggle with mobility.
However, the social benefits of yoga are as plentiful as the physical benefits, as long as you practice regularly.
Participating in a yoga class is a great way to meet new like-minded friends and is associated with improvements in mental health, both of which help to make you more socially functional in various areas of your life, including profession, personal, and community-oriented areas.
People who regularly enjoy yoga classes report social anxiety being lessened, as well as lower stress levels in general. This can make you better able to communicate and positively interact with friends, family, and co-workers.
A recent study tested the effect of Kundalini yoga on children in care, as well as the staff of children’s care homes. The program lasted for 20 weeks, and found that the regular practice of Kundalini yoga was a plausible intervention that led to both individual and social benefits.
This research, coupled with the previous social benefits of exercise that we’ve examined, ensures that many forms of yoga can be effective ways to provide a much-needed boost when you’re struggling.
#6 - Martial Arts
Martial arts provide a number of excellent physical, mental, and social benefits, including improved cardiovascular health, weight loss, and better muscle tone. But we’re looking at the social benefits of this physical activity.
Martial arts schools are a very diverse and interesting option if you’re looking to maximise the social health benefits of exercise, offering new friendships and friendly rivalries between members of all ages, races, creeds, and personal backgrounds.
Another social benefit of this exercise is that martial arts have a fantastic ability for building confidence which flows through to all areas of your life. Setting and achieving goals in your martial arts class instils this confidence, while exposing us to performing in the presence of others.
You’ll find that stepping out of your comfort zone in class will help you feel prepared to meet challenges head-on in the rest of your life, as well as boosting your levels of self-confidence in other areas of your life.
Two crucial social skills you’ll learn via martial arts are teamwork and respect. The first comes from partnering with your classmates to practice various kicks and punches, as well as working towards a common goal in your martial arts journey.
Secondly, respect; the study of martial arts has always been tied to the concept of respect and is one of the core values to be found in any class. Respect is taught by requiring eye contact, obedience, and the trademark martial arts bow.
By stressing the importance of respect within your team, you will learn to transfer this to everyday life, and treat your friends, family, and co-workers with more respect and kindness. To get the best possible start with your gear for martial arts, check out our complete guide to the best Muay Thai boxing shorts.
#7 - Dance Classes
Another way to reap the social benefits of exercise is through dancing, arguably one of the most popular ways to get fit. Dancing has a number of health benefits that include everything from weight loss to self-confidence, to improved body strength.
Taking dance group lessons offers social benefits of exercise that will help you meet new and interesting people and learn social skills. Dance not only provides a good workout for your entire body, but also boosts your confidence to interact in social settings with other people.
Plus, with the interactive nature of these classes, you have a roadmap for meeting others. It’s so easy to chat in an environment based around a mutual interest and being a part of a weekly class allows individuals who are shy or uncomfortable in large groups to find a comfort level.
As one of the top physical activities, you will also see an improvement in your flexibility, stamina, and cardiovascular system. You can even sharpen your memory skills by remembering movements and increase agility and balance if dancing is made a part of your routine.
Explore more of these physical improvements with OriGym’s complete report on the benefits of Zumba, one of the most popular dance classes across the globe.
Another social benefit of this exercise is an overall improved outlook: dancers simply feel better. Dancing busts stress from your body, builds physical strength, and can even help to combat feelings of loneliness.
You will also build your confidence by learning a new skill: a feeling of command on the dance floor can translate to the rest of a person’s life, and others will begin to respond to the confidence you express on the dance floor.
#8 - Swimming
Group swimming lessons are often something we think of introducing to children to encourage both the development of a new skill and social skills with their peers.
From a social development standpoint, group swimming lessons are fantastic for children as they learn how to interact and be confident around many different personalities. Group lessons are also ideal for reinforcing key principles such as sportsmanship, self-discipline, teamwork, and fair play.
In swimming lessons, children are constantly interacting with the swimming coach, who holds a position of authority and leadership in the pool. This allows children to practice conversing with adults, and this skill may transfer over into how children cooperate with their parents or teachers.
It is important to note that all of these social benefits of exercise can be achieved by adults in swimming groups as well - it’s never too late to learn a skill. If you’re just getting started, though, we’d advise wearing a swimming tracker to keep a record of how well you’re progressing.
Swimming gives both children and adults something to strive for. Whether it is kicking a kickboard across the pool, improving a lap time, or recovering from an injury with water rehabilitation, setting goals and achieving them is key.
This leads children and adults to become more goal-oriented in their personal and professional life. Swimmers also need to learn to work together, to encourage each other, to communicate effectively, and to become leaders. All of these skills translate cleanly into adulthood and encourage further team building skills such as strategy development and collaboration.
#9 - Cycling
Our final way to reap the social benefits of exercise is through cycling. Cycling is mainly an aerobic activity, meaning your heart, blood vessels and lungs will all get a workout. Regular cycling can also increase muscle strength and flexibility, decrease stress levels, strengthen bones, decrease body fat levels, and reduce the effects of anxiety and depression.
On average, it takes 2-4 hours per week to achieve a general improvement to your health from cycling, and because it’s low impact you’ll cause less strain on your joints than most other forms of exercise.
Most people know how to ride a bike, so it’s not too hard to start exercising in this way, and it can be as intense as you want it to be, as you can start at low intensity and build up to a more demanding workout, such as cycling uphill, or endurance racing.
It’s common knowledge at this point that physical exercise improves your mental health, and some of the mental health benefits of cycling include decreased stress and anxiety, the release of ‘feel good’ chemicals in your brain that boost your mood, a decreased risk of depression, better sleep quality, and boosted creativity and productivity.
As well as these social health benefits of exercise, regular cycling with a group can also lead to greater levels of attention and concentration, the ability to take turns and share with peers, emotionally regulate when losing a race or competition, the ability to create and maintain friendships, and understanding the consequences of your own actions.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does Exercise Improve Social Skills?
An improved social life is arguably one of the biggest social benefits of exercise. With group classes, social media groups for those with a shared interest, and clubs to join, there’s numerous opportunities to improve your social life, and develop new bonds.
Consistently engaging with people from a variety of backgrounds and abilities can significantly help you to communicate more effectively, boosting your social skills over time and leading to increased confidence for both social situations and daily life.
If exercising regularly is something you’re unfamiliar with, though, explore why you should start with our guide to the benefits of regular exercise.
Exercising with others can also be incredibly beneficial if you’re struggling to find others to communicate with, or you’re not a particularly social person. You’ll immediately have a shared interest with everyone there, and have a topic of conversation you can talk about, even if you’re unsure of the other person’s interests.
Can Exercise Change Your Personality?
While this may seem like an unusual question, especially as our personality is something that’s incredibly personal and unique to us, exercise can actually have a substantial effect on it.
Previous research has documented the effects of a sedentary lifestyle over periods of four to ten years, and further research has extended this study, finding that greater physical inactivity is associated with deterioration in personality two decades later.
This not only means that you can lose some sense of what makes you “you” when you don’t get involved with your favourite activities and hobbies, but you’ll also lose some of the ability to communicate effectively.
Essentially, whilst exercise won’t necessarily change your personality in the short term, it will help you to keep your fantastic personality around for longer, and therefore mean you can keep doing the things you love, whether that’s a gentle yoga session or an intense run in the rain.
Does Exercise Help With Social Anxiety?
One of the best social benefits of physical activity is that exercising regularly builds up your resilience against troubling emotions such as anxiety, depression, and self-confidence issues. Exercise triggers the release of chemicals in the body that can help combat these feelings at their root cause, and help you build up more resistance to them in the future.
Plus, the movement of your body reduces the more physical symptoms of these mental health problems, decreasing muscle tension, and lowering the body’s contribution to feeling anxious.
If you’re engaging in a team sport, you will need to communicate effectively with your teammates, which can help to improve any social anxieties or worries that you might experience. This can act as a sort of exposure therapy for those with extreme social anxiety, as they will see the performance of their team change depending on their social input.
Before You Go!
Hopefully, you’ve seen that you don’t have to be a fitness fanatic to reap the social benefits of exercise - even exercising once per week is useful. But whether you’re looking for more motivation or just to make new friends, there is definitely a social side to sports and exercise that can have a positive impact on you.
Exercise should be a choice for those focused on their mental health as well as those conscious of their physical health, and is a crucial part of a well-balanced life. So, the next time you need motivation to go for a run or a bike ride, remember that the short-term investment of time and energy will provide significant returns in the long run.
Already enthusiastic about all things fitness-related? Perhaps a career in the industry is your next step.
OriGym offer the industry’s best personal training diploma, providing expert guidance 7 days a week, ultra-flexible payment plans, and a guaranteed interview when you graduate.
Download our FREE prospectus today if you’re looking to learn more, or submit an enquiry to hear back from one of our dedicated team.
What's it really like?
Download Our "Day in the Life of a Personal Trainer" Guide
What's it really like?
- McAuley E, Szabo A, Gothe N, Olson EA. Self-efficacy: Implications for Physical Activity, Function, and Functional Limitations in Older Adults. Am J Lifestyle Med. 2011;5(4):10.1177/1559827610392704. doi:10.1177/1559827610392704
- ten Brinke LF, Bolandzadeh N, Nagamatsu LS, et alAerobic exercise increases hippocampal volume in older women with probable mild cognitive impairment: a 6-month randomised controlled trialBritish Journal of Sports Medicine 2015;49:248-254.
- Zhang Y, Fu R, Sun L, Gong Y, Tang D. How Does Exercise Improve Implicit Emotion Regulation Ability: Preliminary Evidence of Mind-Body Exercise Intervention Combined With Aerobic Jogging and Mindfulness-Based Yoga. Front Psychol. 2019;10:1888. Published 2019 Aug 27. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2019.01888
- University of Nottingham. "Yoga can have social benefits for children in care, says a new study." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 13 December 2016.
- Yannick Stephan, Angelina R. Sutin, Martina Luchetti, Grégoire Bosselut, Antonio Terracciano, Physical activity and personality development over twenty years: Evidence from three longitudinal samples, Journal of Research in Personality, Volume 73, 2018, Pages 173-179, ISSN 0092-6566, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jrp.2018.02.005.