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Do you remember when your parents told you not to make friends on the internet? Well, we’re here to tell you to forget all of that (well, maybe not all of it) in the name of fitness.
In all seriousness, an online fitness community is not only a great way to network with fitness-oriented people, but also a way to learn from more experienced lifters, find out about in-person events, and even get a good deal on some of the best home gym equipment. There are online communities that host virtual workout classes, so you can still get all the benefits of a group session while still being in your own home.
Even if you’re working out at home at your garage gym, joining a fitness community allows you to feel as if you have the support of like-minded people the way you would at a commercial gym. None of them can spot you on a tough lift (unless you invite them over), but on the plus side, it’s easier to ignore the guy who rattles on about benching 405 in high school.
Not convinced? In this piece, we’ll discuss some of the various health benefits associated with joining a fitness community and give you some resources to find one that works for you. You’ll also hear from people who belong to the best fitness community out there (spoiler alert: it’s ours).
Fitness Groups Get Better Results
If you’re into fitness, odds are there’s some sort of goal you’re trying to reach–whether that be your ideal bodybuilding physique, pulling four times your bodyweight in a powerlifting meet, or placing in a CrossFit competition. Whatever you’re working toward, it’s been scientifically proven that being part of a group can help you accomplish it.
Multiple studies have shown that participating in a group (either virtual or in-person) actually forces your body to work harder. One meta-analysis of 44 such studies showed it also improved the likelihood people would stick to a workout program, their quality of life, and the ability to execute certain movements (ranging from a burpee to a yoga pose).
This makes a lot of sense when you think about it. Let’s say you’re in a class and you have no idea how to do a certain move. Simply look to your left and right and all of a sudden you have a better idea of what you should be doing. Many virtual classes similarly have screens where you can see other participants and glean what they’re doing.
Groups can also make those grueling workouts suck just a little bit less, as studies have shown that performing movements in synchronization with other people can increase your pain tolerance. In other words, as you’re spinning alongside your instructor those uphill climbs are going to burn less than it would if you were just doing it on your own. Most of these studies have been done on in-person classes, but new research shows there’s similar benefits with virtual classes.
Most of these studies point to a common denominator: endorphins. You probably know that exercise causes your body to release these hormones to alleviate stress and pain. Apparently group exercise accelerates the production of endorphins, thereby improving overall performance.
Fitness Groups Boost Performance
So we know fitness communities encourage better performance, now let’s discuss how that happens. There are three main reasons: motivation, competition, and spectator presence.
Reason 1: Motivation
We’ve all had those days where we wake up and just don’t want to work out, but feel like we have to. Or maybe you’re new to fitness and are struggling to get interested in it. The answer to both is to join a fitness community.
To explain why, we have to dive into psychology a little bit. There are two types of motivation: extrinsic and intrinsic. Extrinsic is when you’re motivated by outside factors, from trying to look better to doing something because you were asked to by your doctor or family.
Intrinsic motivation is when you actually enjoy doing something, or you find it to be satisfying. And research shows working out in a group can increase the likelihood that you’ll find exercise to be enjoyable, and want to continue doing it day-after-day instead of looking at it as a chore or something you “have to do.”
Researchers have also theorized that the social bonds created in a group can be a motivator not only to continue working out, but to also push yourself harder during each and every session.
Reason 2: Competition
There’s a small part of us that wants to be better than others. Don’t believe me? Think about how many times that “friendly” game of Monopoly became heated as it dragged on. Similarly, when we’re in a fitness group, there’s a part of us that wants to see our name higher and higher on the leaderboard.
One study proved that having a sense of competition caused people to workout more frequently and at higher levels so they could rise in the ranks. If you see that someone above you has rowed a couple of hundred meters more than you, you might be more motivated to pump out a few extra reps just to catch up to them.
It doesn’t have to be against an opponent, either, as Kansas State University researchers found that working out with a teammate who you think is better than you can increase your intensity by as much as 200 percent. This study was done on virtual teammates, so it’s true whether that person is next to you or on the other side of the country.
Reason 3: Spectator Presence
Missing a deadlift PR can feel deflating, and especially so if there’s a bunch of people watching you. Wanting to do better in front of a crowd is known as “spectator presence,” and it can be both a good and bad thing.
Spectator presence, according to one study, can cause you to work to avoid failure, rather than seeking success. Yes, that causes you to work harder but not for the right reasons. You should find groups that encourage your success rather than criticize you for not reaching a goal, researchers say. Being part of a group that emphasizes avoiding failure over reaching success can even lead to decreased performance, according to studies dating back to the 1970s.
If you need another example of how spectator presence can improve performance, consider that researchers discovered weightlifters were able to lift more with a spotter present than when they were lifting on their own.
Most researchers agree this is a psychological phenomenon rather than a physiological one, meaning it has more to do with one’s mindset rather than their physical capabilities.
Online Communities We Recommend
Hopefully by now we’ve sold you on the idea of joining an online fitness community. Besides ours, there’s countless others we recommend you join to help ensure you reach your fitness goals. Here are just a few of our favorites:
- Peloton app (you can use it with some of the best Peloton alternatives. Gives you access to interactive workouts and challenges)
- The iFit app (a database of interactive workouts and challenges that is accessible with many of the best cardio machines out there)
- The Fitbit community
- BodySpace (a social media app by Bodybuilding.com for weightlifters and bodybuilders)
- MapMyFitness (a running community created by Under Armour)
You can also search Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for local groups in your area, or specialized groups focused around nutrition, recovery, or lifestyle choices such as plant-based eating.
Or, not to sound like a broken record, you can join our Facebook group and ask for advice–someone will be more than happy to help you find a group.
What Our Readers Said About Online Fitness Community Groups
When it comes to fitness communities, we’re not just talking the talk–we’re also walking the walk (sometimes literally). We run a Facebook group called Home Gym Community by Garage Gym Reviews, which, as of this writing, has close to 110,000 members across the world.
I created this page so I could give people advice on how to build their home gyms, but also so other people could share pictures of their workout space and share tips with each other. And sometimes people post funny memes and jokes.
I really love seeing everyone interact on the page and giving advice to people they’ve never met, and it’s led to many impressive garage gyms being built (here are just a few of them). But don’t take my word for it–we asked the community what they love about the group, and whether they belonged to any others. Here’s what a few of them had to say.
And you thought you had it bad with shipping and handling.
We love seeing these success stories!
Real reviews from real people.
Another great group you should consider joining.
Some of our members put together genius DIY fitness equipment, and I highly recommend you check some of them out.
As you can see, there are many reasons why you should consider joining not just our community (but really, you should join right now) but any other one that fits your fitness interests.
We truly believe that home gyms are better than commercial gyms, but that doesn’t mean the community aspect has to go away. Joining a fitness community is an easy way to stay motivated, learn about the latest and greatest trends, and possibly make some new friends. And you still get to have your home gym all to yourself.
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