- People who train together increase their pain threshold many times over.
- Having others by your side during exercise increases endorphin production.
- Also, having an exercise buddy or two increases the likelihood that you will stick to your program.
How to improve your training advantages
If you are debating whether to work out at a home gym or join the health club, some new research can influence your decision. According to a study by the University of Oxford, people who play sport together increase their pain threshold many times over. In fact, those who train on a team have twice the pain tolerance of those who train alone, which means they can train longer and harder.
If tolerating increased pain is not exactly your dream goal, you may be interested to know that the side effect of increasing your pain threshold is that you increase your happiness level at the same time. This is because pain triggers the release of endorphins, also known as endogenous opioid polypeptides (opioid is the shining word here), and endorphins act on the brain in a manner similar to morphine, numbing the pain and improving mood. After the pain triggers the endorphins, they interact with opiate receptors and prevent nerve cells from releasing additional pain signals.
Somehow, having others by your side while you exercise increases endorphin production. Researchers aren't exactly sure how or why this happens, but they are pretty sure that it does. According to the director of the study, Emma Cohen, “The results indicate that the endorphin release in group training is significantly higher than in individual training, even if the performance or physical exertion remains constant. The exact characteristics of the group activity that produce this effect are not known. However, this study adds to a growing body of evidence suggesting that synchronized, coordinated physical activity may be responsible. "
Research on exercise and endorphins
To test the theory, the researchers pulled subjects from a rowing team and let them row on their own on fitness equipment. Then the subjects rowed at the same time as other subjects and simulated the experience of working with the team in the water. After each exercise, the researchers attached blood pressure cuffs to the subjects and inflated the cuffs until the subjects had "uncle cried". The subjects tolerated at least twice as much pressure after exercising with the group than when exercising alone, and the researchers suspect that endorphins are the reason.
Possible factors for the group effect are the possibility that synchronous movements trigger an endorphin effect or that the achievement of team goals triggers an associated "rush" rather than the achievement of individual goals. These are the possibilities pointed out by the researchers, but those delving into alternative healing modalities might equally be inclined to suspect that energy is actually being transferred from one person to another just because they are around. If you've ever done endurance sports and have reached your limits, you know that being physically close to others somehow improves your own energy levels. It is as if the other person's power is spilling over you. This is the principle that some healers use to transfer healing energy to patients through modalities such as Reiki, some forms of massage, quantum healing, etc.
Either way, the downside of the endorphin effect is that it can make you push something too hard, beyond your body's limits. If you don't feel the pain, you can keep jogging or cycling or dancing to the beat and then injure yourself. This can also happen with individual exercises, but when you exercise with a group the risk increases. That may be the reason why so many marathon runners don't get injured until race day, for example, when the energy of the audience and all other runners carry them beyond their legs' capacity, or why sports stars are more likely to get injured during the game than when you're alone practices.
Partner to increase your training capacity
On the plus side, if you're looking to increase your physical performance, this research shows that exercising with a buddy or taking group classes is the way to go. Having a practice mate or two increases the chances of sticking to your program and makes the experience more fun. If you don't have friends or are unwilling to get off the couch, there are several websites where you can search for exercise partners. On the other hand, you can also trigger the endorphin effect by eating chili peppers, taking acupuncture or massage, or even meditating. These things alone may not help you cut minutes off your race time, but they do make you feel great and increase your overall wellbeing.
When all else fails, you can just try to curse a blue stripe while exercising. New studies show that swearing increases both pain resistance and physical endurance. (Can't wait for competitive parents to learn that this technique can give their cute, cute little leaguers an edge over the competition.)