Ever wondered why working out in a group just seems…easier? Well the science is in – and it turns out: it’s totally a thing.

New research published this month in Sport, Exercise, and Performance Psychology reinforces Les Mills’ position as a thought leader in the group fitness industry, this time demonstrating the overarching importance of getting group dynamics right in order to retain club members.

50 years’ experience in the group fitness industry, combined with an ongoing research program, have meant Les Mills has long known how to harness the power of the group effect, ingraining that knowledge into its instructor coaching and suite of programs.

Les Mills’ Head of Research, Bryce Hastings, says its latest piece of research into the complex area of group dynamics is testament of its commitment to trail blazing group fitness.

“Our commitment to producing science-backed group fitness solutions for our club partners is unequivocal.  We wanted to take our knowledge of the group effect in a group fitness environment up a notch in a bid to more fully scope its effect(s) on a club member’s experience.

“And as a result of this latest study, we now have the depth of information and data to further enhance the group effect across all of our group fitness offerings,” says Hastings.

Conducted by Dr Blair Evans of Penn State University, the Les Mills Group Dynamics Study  saw a concept known by exercise psychologists as groupness scrutinized.

Groupness relates to the extent to which someone feels that the group impacts their workout; if they feel part of a close-knit group, their perceived level of groupness is rated as high while a lack of group interaction equates to low perceptions of groupness.

After analysing 97 study participants’ feelings about a range of group fitness workouts over a two week period, Dr Evans says the majority of the findings were in line with what they had suspected when they embarked on the study.  However, the data revealed an additional, equally important, finding correlated with high levels of groupness.

“Our research showed conclusively that high levels of groupness have a significant bearing on peoples’ satisfaction, enjoyment and exertion but we now have the evidence to demonstrate its influence on a person’s intention to return to a class.

“This means groupness has a bigger impact on peoples’ behaviour in a group fitness environment than first thought so our recommendation to our club partners is to use it as an additional attendance tool.

“Get groupness right and your members’ commitment to your group fitness offering is solid; choose not to prioritise it and you may lose them,” says Dr Evans.

Hastings says carefully-crafted strategies to enhance groupness are a critical component of designing and delivering Les Mills group fitness workouts but it is the instructors who bring them to life through their ability to connect with the individuals in a group and create a sense of ‘we’ in a class.

“Our instructors are armed with the talent, skills and resources to help people feel like they’re working out as a true group with shared goals.  They know how to take what we know from the science and turn it into a positive experience for members.

“This latest piece of research means we now have a deeper understanding of the power of group dynamics and the far-reaching influence these complex phenomena have on member behaviour,” he says.

Dr Evans says that there is a lot of speculation about the power of group dynamics in the fitness industry.

“But the difference between Les Mills and other group fitness providers is that when you partner with the former, you know you’re getting programs that are powered by science.”

About the study

Over a two-week period, 97 adult exercisers (85.5% females) completed surveys following fitness classes.  Data was collected by members of the research team who were stationed at one fitness facility.  Following each class, participants completed a brief questionnaire pertaining to levels of groupness, characteristics of the class and feelings about the session they had just completed. In particular, participants were asked to comment on exertion, enjoyment, satisfaction and their intention to return to the class.

Class offerings included cardiovascular activities such as cycling (RPM), athletic conditioning (BODYATTACK, BODYSTEP) and martial arts inspired workouts (BODYCOMBAT), synchronized strength training using weights (BODYPUMP), and high intensity interval sessions (LES MILLS GRIT and LES MILLS SPRINT).

The research team also measured fluctuations in groupness between classes and found that participants rated highly-synchronized workouts like BODYATTACK and BODYCOMBAT as having stronger groupness than off the beat programs such as LES MILLS SPRINT.

Hastings says this means instructors who teach off the beat programs face a bigger challenge in achieving high levels of groupness. “We’ll be taking this insight and integrating additional teaching techniques to our coaching model to make sure the group effect is maximised across all of our programs,” he says.


Les Mills group fitness classes are enjoyed in over 900 fitness facilities across Australia, taught by our 9,000 plus fitness leader tribe. Programs include the ever popular BODYPUMP (weights), BODYBALANCE (yoga, tai chi & Pilates) and LES MILLS GRIT (high intensity interval training). Catering to the demographics and palates of fitness facilities everywhere, LES MILLS licences an additional 14 programs as well as providing the training of fitness leaders to facilitate them. Taking LES MILLS in to the future, consumers can also enjoy Virtual classes anytime at their local facility or at home with the Les Mills On Demand (LMOD) app. www.lesmills.com.au