Get a Better Workout- That’s a Laugh!

Staying motivated was a big problem when I was beginning to change my couch potato ways, so I read lots of online advice. Some authorities advised me to exercise with a friend, the idea being that I wouldn’t want to disappoint my friend, so I’d be less likely to skip out on my exercise plans. Well, surprisingly enough, me skipping out on exercise was not going to be a great letdown for many of my (equally sedentary) friends. Since I was the one wanting to change things up, I would more likely be the “motivator” (or more accurately, the “bringer of shame”) if I wished to coerce my friends into changing present exercise patterns that they were content with.

(Photo: Some rights reserved, Kevin Dooley)

I learned that, as fun as it might sound, “doing it with friends” may not be a viable option when you are wanting to make a big lifestyle change, so you must be prepared to start the journey on your own. It can feel a bit lonely trying new things and new places in the beginning, and it can also be intimidating to feel like you are the only one who is out of shape or overweight in places full of athletes. (Dealing with issues around this will be the topic of an upcoming blog post). But in a surprisingly short time, two things will happen. First, you will stop feeling so out of place at your gym/class/venue, as you learn some of the routines and meet people who encourage you to continue. And second, some of your friends will see how much fun you are having and how good you feel, and they will start to join you of their own accord. So, yay, you get to meet new friends and keep the old!

But- once you are spiralling in the right direction, there are some good reasons to become a leader and rope in a few pals when you make your next exercise plans. New studies are showing that exercising in groups may make your workout more effective. In one study, researchers Cohen, Ejsmond-Frey, Knight, and Dunbar discovered that training in a group prompts the release of endorphins into your brain, making you feel better and raising your pain threshold. A higher pain threshold means you can comfortably train longer and harder, improving your results. Exercise itself raises endorphin levels, but the effects were increased even more when the exercise was done in groups.

Dunbar and some other researchers also did another study in which they discovered that laughter in groups resulted in a similar increase in endorphins. I just have to share the way they measured this- they had volunteers watch funny movies such as Mr. Bean alone and in groups. Then, as they were watching and laughing, they inflicted pain on the subjects and measured their tolerance. That experimental model itself strikes me as pretty funny- watching Mr. Bean while being subjected to physical pain? Some may suggest that is a double whammy (sorry).

(Photo: Some rights reserved, Kevin Dooley)

So there you have it- in the end the advice I got was right after all, just for a different reason. If you want to increase your efficiency in your physical activities, choose a fun (and funny) group of people and have a good laugh while you work out.


5 thoughts on “Get a Better Workout- That’s a Laugh!

  1. The essence of what you are saying is spot on ,especially when starting out. For the core of my exercises I tend to do it alone, weight lifting, rowing etc. Kayaking is different, I will train with people if they are around, but I always head out with the view of going it alone, that way you remain totally accountable for your actions, with no-one else to blame… Good luck by the way, and enjoy!

    • Thanks Baz! I’m really enjoying following your blog, by the way. Makes me nostalgic for “Down Under”. I was in NZ, not Aus., but I know I can safely tell you that since it seems your good buddy is a Kiwi, so you must have put the traditional Aussie-Kiwi rivalry aside

      • No way, he might be my brother-in-law, and one of my best mates, but he’s still a Kiwi…! Geez, I better be careful, I’m climbing with some great Kiwi mountaineers…yes rivalaries still stand (but more friendly banter)! Take care, and glad you enjoy the blog, I quite like writing so need to keep “adventuring or rescuing dogs” to give me something to write about!

  2. Pingback: Time for New Year’s Resolutions? | Fork In The Road

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