Humans are naturally social beings, biologically wired to connect with others. From a young age, these connections help shape your sense of self. How you interact with others during childhood forms the foundation for how you see yourself. For instance, people who grow up without encouragement, empathy, or patience may become more critical and impatient with themselves as adults. 

Social connection is crucial throughout life. Those who struggle to connect often need it the most but are usually the most apprehensive to try.

Men, in general, tend to have fewer social connections than women. Stereotypes of masculinity like being entirely independent, not asking for help, or showing vulnerability can contribute to social isolation.

Group fitness is an excellent countermeasure to social isolation and has a host of other benefits. Most of us did it growing up but haven’t continued it into adulthood.

In fact, according to a new study from the Canadian Men’s Health Foundation, 50% of men aren’t getting at least 150 minutes of moderate to strenuous exercise, which is the weekly recommended amount for adults 18+ based on Canada’s 24-Hour Movement Guidelines.

Why group fitness?

As a clinical counsellor, I work with many men who experience loneliness and find it difficult to seek new social connections. Group activities are a great way to get your body moving, expand your social circle and positively impact your mental health. 

Benefits of group fitness include:

  • Increased self-esteem and life satisfaction
  • Reduced depression, anxiety, and stress
  • Improved self-control
  • Pro-social behaviour
  • Better interpersonal communication
  • A greater sense of belonging

Signs you need more social connection

Take a moment to reflect on whether your need for social connection is being met.

Ask yourself:

  • Do I feel lonely or disconnected?
  • Do I spend most of my time alone?
  • Do I communicate with people outside of work?
  • Do I leave my house often?
  • Am I involved in the community?
  • Am I irritable?
  • Do I get easily frustrated?
  • Am I frequently argumentative?
  • Am I feeling anxious, stressed, or depressed?

If you struggle with depression or anxiety, a social support system can help you deal with negative feelings. Social connection provides an outlet to share what we’re going through and receive comfort and positivity from others. 

Don’t let shame or embarrassment stop you


Despite the many benefits of starting a new activity, it can be hard to get started. In my experience, shame is one of the biggest obstacles.

If you’ve had bad experiences with sports growing up, that can naturally lead you to avoid group fitness as an adult. Some men who played team sports as kids experienced too much pressure from their parents. While others felt excluded or experienced bullying from teammates. 

Limited free time, low confidence in their physical abilities, and fear of failure or rejection are other common obstacles men have shared as preventing them from stepping outside their comfort zone.

How to find the right group activity for you

Think about your goals

There are countless group activities to choose from, so think about what you want to get out of it. Do you want to learn a new sport or skill? Are you seeking something purely recreational or prefer competition?

It’s fine to keep goals as simple as getting fit or being social. Experiment with different activities to find the ones you genuinely enjoy and want to continue.

Start small


Don’t expect to go from 0 to 100 right away. If you’re worried about working out with a group of people, start by going for a walk or a run in the park where others will be active. This way, you get used to exercising around other people without the pressure of interacting with them. 

Expand your comfort zone little by little. Ask a good friend to go to the gym or an exercise class with you. Try out a drop-in sport at your local community centre and commit to testing it out for just five minutes.

You’ll build good habits by making simple changes one step at a time. As one new habit forms, add another goal, then another, and watch your self-confidence grow!

Sign up for a class

Sign up and add it to your calendar when you find something interesting. Scheduling in advance will help you feel motivated to show up and give it a try. Most classes welcome beginners, and instructors often provide tips to help you get ready for your first class.

Find a group that aligns with your values

Joining a fitness group or sports team means becoming part of a new community. Choose one that aligns with your values, needs, and personal interests. This alignment can make forming new connections easier and help develop a sense of belonging.

For example, joining a sports league for queer men may allow you to bond with others over shared experiences. Or, joining a team with older men may allow you to exercise with others at a similar fitness level. 

You’ll meet people with similar abilities when you find a team or class that aligns with your values, needs, and interests. Seeing them make mistakes without negative consequences will help you realize it’s okay to make mistakes, too. You’ll still belong and be part of the group.

Let go of perfectionism

No one is perfect at something the first time they try it. So, if you’re trying a new sport, don’t worry if it takes a little while to pick it up. You may not feel like you’re the most capable or physically fit in the group, but that doesn’t make you a failure. You’ll still get the health and social benefits and improve over time.

Motivation goes both ways

You might feel nervous or inadequate when you attend class or practice for the first time, but chances are you’re not the only one. Your presence will likely provide peace of mind to another teammate, knowing there is someone else with a similar skill level. You might even motivate one another to get better together.

Relying on someone and knowing that someone else relies on you is a foundation for building friendships and self-confidence.

What are some classes or groups you’ve been thinking about trying out? Share in the comments below!

Move For Your Mental Health

Park far away, take the stairs and move more for Men’s Health Month this June.