“Better together!” is Brenda Colyer’s motto. As the group exercise coordinator and personal trainer at St. Vincent’s One Nineteen in Birmingham, AL, she teaches and oversees classes like High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), Body Pump and Sunrise Yoga on a daily basis. She finds that the benefits from taking group fitness classes are countless—from finding motivation in surrounding yourself with out to holding yourself accountable to attend a class you signed up for, group fitness can be the outlet you need to get in a workout while working towards a healthy lifestyle.
But where do you start? And how do you know if group exercise is right for you? Start by signing up for one class of your choice and go from there! The group fitness options are endless—think spin, cardio, sculpt and barre. Find your niche and challenge yourself with the help of others. After all, you’ll be surrounding yourself with others who are also working out to become better versions of themselves (one group fitness class at a time!).
Check out five ways group fitness classes can improve your health:
1. You Challenge Your Body.
Barre. Body Pump. Water aerobics. All of the above. Colyer says it’s wise to try new activities and change up fitness routines often, potentially every six to eight weeks, or when you’re no longer feeling challenged. “Our bodies are adaptable and become more efficient at activities that we repeat frequently,” she says. “From a standpoint of strength development or weight loss, you’ll see substantial results if you introduce new challenges for your body to overcome,” she says. By changing the exercise or even just the tempo, repetitions or angles of the same exercise, you’ll continue to challenge your body and prevent injury. You’ll also stave off boredom.
2. You’re More Likely to Exercise.
Not only do friends increase the amount of exercise you do, but findings published in an October 2016 Science News report suggest that people exercise more when their companions offer emotional support and encouragement rather than practical support like never missing a session. Sure, you could ask your best friend to be your gym buddy. But there’s a greater likelihood you’ll find a better gym companion at the gym—especially in a fitness class where there is a social element and chance to partner-up during the workout.
“I have witnessed budding friendships and networks of support for one another,” Colyer says. “I think social engagement is one of the driving factors that make group exercise so enjoyable.” Energy is contagious, she adds. “If you’re in a slump but you manage to make it to a class anyway, you can use others around you to motivate you and inspire you to do your best.”
3. You’re Getting Proper Instruction.
It’s easy to walk into the gym, jump on a treadmill, and walk or run for an hour. It’s another thing entirely to have (and pay for!) a private, hour-long workout with a certified personal trainer whose job it is to challenge your body to promote change and improve overall health. Usually, certified personal trainers teach fitness classes (that are included in your gym membership) and they can demonstrate exercises properly, help correct misalignments in your own form, and can challenge and motivate you to do just “one more” even when you think you can’t. Some trainers even incorporate before-and-after workout stretches to help prevent injury and soreness as well as improve posture, according to UC Davis.
“Properly recovering can leave us in a more relaxed state, brings our heart rate back to our pre-workout rate, and helps return our core temperature to normal,” Colyer says. “So often I see hurried, type-A people skip the cool down and it’s those people who would benefit the most,” she says.
4. You Can Be Introduced to Weight Training.
It’s common for beginners to opt for sustained cardio—running, biking, swimming or using the elliptical for days and months on end. But you don’t have to spend 20-30 minutes every workout doing sustained cardio to get the heart-healthy benefits of exercise. “Weight training, when done with mindful intensity, can give you adequate benefits for your cardiovascular system and will save you from repetitive-use injuries at the same time,” Colyer says. From controlling blood sugar and improving blood pressure to increasing metabolism by increasing lean body mass, weight training can aim you in the direction of better health. “If you want to make significant changes in your health and physique, start a resistance training program and continue to move throughout the day,” she says.
5. Classes Cater to Your Needs.
Not all fitness classes are the same. And no two people are at the exact same fitness level. If you’re working out effectively on your own but aren’t taking time to stretch or meditate, a Yoga or Tai Chi class could help you with balance and relaxation. If cardio comes naturally to you but you’re intimidated by or are unsure of how to properly lift weights, try a weight-training class. If you’re new to exercise, a beginner class (of any kind) is a good place to start intensity-wise and experience-wise. Colyer offers these tips for the beginner:
- Attend with a friend.
- Introduce yourself to the instructor before class and ask if there is anything specific that you need to be aware of before class starts.
- Introduce yourself to another class participant.
- Position yourself so you can see the instructor and the instructor can clearly see you. It is very common for a new attendee to hide in the back of the room where they may not be able to see or hear the instructor adequately.
- Get a clear understanding of the experience level of the class. Most group exercise classes will welcome inexperienced exercisers. Some, however, require a more advance exercise level.