Although those who exercise individually put in more effort, they experienced no significant changes in their stress or perceived physical fitness levels.
“The communal benefits of coming together with friends and colleagues, and doing something difficult, while encouraging one another, pays dividends beyond exercising alone," said lead researcher Dr Dayna Yorks, of the University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine.
"The findings support the concept of a mental, physical and emotional approach to health that is necessary for student doctors and physicians."
For the study, researchers recruited 69 medical students - a group known for high levels of stress and poor work-life balance - and allowed them to self-select a twelve-week exercise program, either within a group setting or as individuals.
Those exercising in a group showed significant improvements in all three quality of life measures: boosting mental well-being by 12 per cent mental, self reported physical fitness by 24 per cent and emotional stability by 26 per cent. They also reported a 26 per cent reduction in perceived stress levels.
In contrast, those exercising on their own saw no significant changes in any measure, except in mental well-being which increased 11 per cent.
The results were published in the Journal of The American Osteopathic Association.