Participant attrition is detrimental for exercise intervention studies, particularly if dropout is not random. Community engagement has helped facilitate participant adherence, which is particularly applicable for group exercise programs. Developing a sense of community (SOC) helps participants feel that they belong and provides ongoing social support. This paper reports on strategies used during an 11-week high intensity functional training (HIFT) intervention with exceptionally high adherence (96.7%) that involved 30 participants (57% women, age 36.7 ± 4.5 years). Participants recorded their heart rate variability using a smartphone app daily throughout the study, completed three different weeks of fitness assessments, and attended six weeks of five days/week HIFT group exercise sessions led by a certified coach. Coaches used strategies to facilitate group interactions and individual feedback and engagement. Participants completed a follow-up survey that included 14 items from the SOC in sport scale (SCS), eight questions about group dynamics, and three open-ended study feedback questions that were coded using the SOC categories. All SCS items were highly rated (mean range = 4.51-4.93/5) as were the group dynamics items (mean range = 4.30-4.85/5). Common interests were the most mentioned SOC category in open-ended responses, and while the participants reported really enjoying the study, they provided constructive feedback for improving future studies. Using specific strategies to facilitate a SOC in exercise intervention research (e.g., group exercise, social media connections, and facilitating participant interactions) are recommended for both researchers and practitioners to avoid attrition and encourage adherence, particularly for programs with high daily participant burden.

Author ORCID Identifier

Katie M. Heinrich https://orcid.org/0000-0002-6837-408X

Megan Patterson https://orcid.org/0000-0001-6876-2931

Derek A Crawford https://orcid.org/0000-0002-7693-9677

Adam E. Barry https://orcid.org/0000-0001-6527-6866

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License