Working out becomes easier in groups

Alyssa Morlacci

Christine Huey, freshman pre-nursing major, started exercising with a few friends using the P90X DVD workout plan two weeks ago. She said working out as a group motivates her to keep in shape.

“When you look at the person next to you, it pushed you to try to work harder than them; it’s more of a competitive drive,” Huey said. “Then, you can have more fun with it than if you’re home by yourself and it’s like ‘I just really don’t want to do this right now.’”

Research done by Jacob Barkley, health sciences assistant professor, shows that students who aren’t as successful as Huey in building a support group are more prone to obesity.

Barkley was recently recognized by the Akron Beacon Journal for testing children’s reactions to a video game that implemented ostracism.

Participants in Barkley’s study were told that they were playing the game with other people over the internet. However, the ‘other players’ were actually programmed to ignore the participants.

Barkley said children reported “feelings of sadness, anger and loss of control” after playing the game.

“It’s only three minutes,” Barkley said. “It’s just these little stick figure drawings of people throwing a ball to one other. If that can cause an effect, imagine what it’s like for the kid or adult that’s constantly shunned, that no one talks to, day after day after day.”

Barkley concluded that there is a correlation between ostracism and obesity.

In other tests, adults participated in brain scans after playing the same game and showed that the exclusion induced pain.

“It activated the pain centers of the brain, much the same way you would activate [it] if you stubbed your toe or burned your thumb on a pan,” Barkley said. “The activity of the brain is the same whether you have been experiencing the ‘pain’ of ostracism or physical, actual pain.”

Huey said she has seen a couple of her friends experience this isolation.

“I have two friends that are overweight now and they always talk about how when we go out or something, everyone just kind of stays away from them or makes little comments, and it’s hard for them to make friends,” Huey said.

Barkley said “it could become a vicious cycle” as people who are not included become more overweight and increasingly shunned.

“If an individual is ostracized, if an individual is victimized, they’re more likely to make poor health decisions,” Barkley said. “And, that’s not their fault necessarily, it could just be the natural response to that stimulus.”

Barkley said having friends to go to the gym with can help to fix the problem.

“We’ve continued to suggest that maybe the real benefit for adults is by having someone to go with you. It gets you in the door,” Barkley said. “I’m more likely to go and lift if I’ve got someone to work out with than if I go by myself.”

Maryellen Gorman, freshman fashion merchandising major, works out with Huey. She said “other people get you motivated and excited to get fit.”

Huey said working out with others has helped her stay active.

“If you’re going to go to the gym, go with a group of your friends and do the workouts together because then you’re surrounded by people who know who you are and you don’t feel like you’re being judged as much,” she said. “And you have someone to talk to while you’re working out and to motivate you and everything.”

Contact Alyssa Morlacci at [email protected].