We already know that exercise benefits your mental health, including reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety. But if you want a workout that will make you feel really great, maybe what you need is to join a team.
There’s science behind this idea, but if you’ve ever worked out with a group, it also just makes sense. When I trained for a marathon with a coaching group, I knew that my buddies would be there at every Saturday long run. We’d grumble together through the hardest miles and then “like” each other’s Facebook posts about it afterward. The next year, I showed up but life had taken my friends in other directions. There was no longer anyone in the group who ran my same pace and also showed up consistently. I tried for a while, but I ended up dropping out.
There’s more to a team (or close-knit training group) than just encouraging you through a workout. When I played roller derby, I had no trouble hitting the gym on my own because I knew my teammates were counting on me. I also knew they were doing the same on their days away from practice, because we were all building this beautiful, unstoppable machine together.
Plus, it’s just nice to be around people who care about the same things you do, whether that’s your soccer team or your pottery class. We’re just happier when we have friends. One study published earlier this year found that:
The difference in mental health burden between individuals who participated in popular (team-based) sports versus those who do not exercise was approximately the same as the difference in mental health burden … between individuals with a difference in household income of more than US$25,000 ($34,355).
So it turns out money can buy happiness. But a team or training group can give you that same benefit a lot cheaper.