Group Exercise - It's Not All Spandex and Zumba...
However, with over literally hundreds of different group exercises available in the world, there really is something to cater to everybody's fitness goals, whether that be a relaxing yoga class, a high intensity interval cardio class or a heavy hitting circuit training class, there will be something for you.
In many gym memberships across the world, group exercises classes come as an added bonus, yet many people overlook their benefits.
Here will analyse all 13 reasons why you should be taking advantage of the group exercise classes you have on offer at your gym.
Reason #1 - Time Efficient
Here's where group exercises come into play, many classes last a single hour, often with a 5-10 minute warm up and cool down period either side of the main workout. This can be easily integrated into working life without letting it take over, simply rock up to the gym and leave an hour later to go and enjoy the rest of your day.
Many gyms also offer "express" style classes, these are fantastic if you have a limited amount of time for your lunch break (providing your gym is sufficiently close to work!) allowing you to sneak out the office for a quick 30 minute class before heading back to your desk re-energized by physical activity.
If your gym isn't close by it's just as easy to slot in an express class straight after work, with shorter class times, it's really easy to travel to the gym, workout, shower and get ready to meet friends for the evening in less than an hour.
Keeping your workout efficient would be much more difficult with a solo routine, making group exercise classes the optimal choice for those wanting to fit more into their week effectively. If you're lucky, you may even find a free HIIT class at your local gym too.
Gone is the outdated idea that to achieve results you need to spend 2 hours a day working on each muscle group, or that you should run for 3 hours to finally start burning off that belly you hoped would be gone by now.
Research has shown time and time again that an effective workout can be completed in a fraction of this time, with many sources supporting the statement that you should workout for not much longer than 1 hour , some even argue that you should aim to keep workouts no longer than 45 minutes .
Naturally this will differ for individuals and between workouts of varying intensity, e.g. someone aiming to do 60 minutes of sprints will most likely have a greater increase in cortisol than someone completing a yoga routine.
Reason #2 - Challenging at Every Level
Whether it's a yoga class or a body pump class, provided you have an effective instructor, the second reason you should be taking advantage of group exercise classes is that they are challenging.
For example, getting your flex on in a yoga class? No problem, the instructor available will simply be able to direct you to the more difficult version of the current class pose.
Think more throwing yourself into an unassisted headstand rather than an easy shoulder-stand.
For example, if the standard burpee isn't quite getting your breathing higher than a walk to the local shops, turn it into a burpee with a push up and a tuck jump.
Fancy toning up and developing muscle? (Summer is never much more than 6 months away after-all), then it's even simpler, go for the heavier weight!
Yes you might be surrounded by people who are both lacking in the health department, and even some who certainly aren't, it's important to always select a weight that is challenging for you.
For example, during a body pump class, it's always valuable to note down the weight you use for specific exercises, therefore if your muscles weren't burning by the end of the set, you know to pick up an extra weight plate or two for next time.
Of course, if it is the first time in the gym or you're relatively unfit, instructors will be able to show you the easier version of exercises to complete to challenge yourself at the right level without overexertion and increasing the risk of injury.
Reason #3 - Develop Every Element of Your Fitness
- aerobic capacity
- muscular flexibility
There are however several more but only 4 are listed here for the sake of simplicity.
With literally hundreds, if not thousands, of different exercises classes available, all the way from aerobics to Zumba, and everything in between, you can be sure that whatever element of your fitness you want to develop, there's a class for it somewhere.
Even if doing a downward dog means you're panting in pain as you try to stretch your hamstrings for the first time, like a puppy excitedly awaiting walkies, working on your weakest element will help you become a better and more well-rounded athlete.
It's no wonder yoga has increased in popularity over the past few years among some of the best NFL athletes .
Even if endurance events, such as triathlons or even ultra marathons, float your boat, classes can still offer an opportunity to develop and strengthen your weaker areas which will help you perform better in your chosen event.
Take an average runner for example, typically lean and reluctant to increase muscle mass significantly for fear of the extra weight, despite this, a strength building class, such as the classic legs, bums and tums, could offer the leg and butt strength to power through the final few miles of an endurance event whilst the extra core strength will help maintain effective posture to keep your running more efficient.
Reason #4 - Be Accountable
Hardly surprising when you think about it, if you're in a room where the rest of the people in a class are giving it their all, it's far more difficult to be "that person" who can't be bothered pushing out that extra rep. There's also been a range of group psychological studies that reinforce the extent to which we "fit in" to group dynamics.
In reality, many group exercise classes have a wall-wide mirror in the room, meaning that if you're slacking, everyone will know!
Reason #5 - Get Free Professional Advice
Gyms with group exercise classes will have selected who they think is the best person to lead a fitness class in terms of motivation, knowledge of exercise physiology and health and safety.
After-all, if nobody uses their fitness classes, the owners will end up with a very very busy gym floor and a whole heap of annoyed gym clients fueled on a mix of pre-workout drinks and testosterone.
So it makes sense for gyms to appoint fitness professionals (many of which will have undertaken additional courses and qualifications), which is fantastic news for anyone participating in the class.
Not only will the class be run with a sensible selection of exercises, but there will be a qualified fitness professional available to speak to before, after and potentially during the class.
Not sure about that aching in your hip when you squat?
How about the best post workout nutrition to eat after a workout?
Maybe you're interested in the best exercises to increase your core strength?
All these and more are questions you can ask the class instructor and, more often than not, they will be happy to pass on their knowledge and wisdom to you!
Reason #6 - Structure
Alternatively, even after a full session and an effective warm up you might simply reach down to touch your toes, count that as your stretching for the day and stroll off back into the outside world, only to find yourself aching so much you struggle to climb stairs the next day.
Group exercise classes eliminates the guess work from structuring your workout effectively.
Each session will have been carefully designed to include the three main elements of a successful workout routine; the warm up, the workout and finally the cool down.
There's no skipping the stretches here. Following this workout routine will ensure you not only start the main section of your exercise ready to set new personal records, but the final period of the class should kick start your recovery process, maintain your flexibility, help to eliminate muscle soreness and even ward off injury.
It's not just the best novels that have a beginning, middle and end...
Reason #7 - Make New Friends
Fortunately, group exercise classes give us a great opportunity to do this, whether it's a conversation with the other class members whilst your waiting for the class to start, a simple combined grunt of exhaustion during the class or high fives all around after you all complete a strenuous workout.
This can be particularly good both for motivation and general enjoyment when working out, rather than simply plugging in the headphones and moving heavy things for an hour, suddenly exercise has become a social occasion where you get to see familiar faces and catch up on the weekend.
You'll always met some really great people when going to fitness classes, people who inspire you to push out an extra repetition and who can make you laugh once the class is over. It's not irregular to bump into these types of people in the outside world either!
Reason #8 - Build a Weekly Routine
For many people motivation can be difficult, too often the stresses of daily life put working out even further down the list of priorities, but What can we do to ensure it remains a part of our life?
One answer offered by the world of psychology is to make sure that your exercise plan becomes a habit and this is where group exercise classes come into play. In nearly all gyms, exercise classes are scheduled for the same time, on the same day, every week.
This is fantastic news for anyone wanting to build a routine to help keep health and fitness a cornerstone in their life.
Whether it's the Wednesday night circuit class at 7pm, the abs class at lunchtime on a Tuesday or maybe the rise and shine workout at 9am on a Saturday, whatever the class and whatever the time, regular attendance to a specific class for a few weeks will start to implement a solid routine into your week, which over time will become a habit.
Try writing down each time you attend somewhere visible too, the visual image of a trend (e.g. a green tick on your calendar for every Wednesday you went to circuit class) will help you stay motivated and improve adherence to a healthier lifestyle.
Take control of your schedule rather than letting it control you.
Reason #9 - Bad Form is Corrected
Completing exercises with bad form is not only exploding your risk of injury, it's also not particularly effective for working the area of the body that the exercise is aiming to develop, training your body with bad form is as useful as chopping down a tree with a plastic spoon.
Take a simple bicep curl, picking up a weight that is slightly too heavy for an individuals current level of progress may cause them to swing their body in an attempt to lift the dumbbell.
Whilst the weight does move upward, it doesn't do so in a controlled motion and isn't as effective at stimulating the bicep as a standard bicep curl where you are in control of the weight.
Bad form should be eliminated and corrected within any good exercise class. A group exercise class instructor will have seen all kinds of ways to complete various exercises and will be versed in which methods are likely to yield the best benefit.
The bottom line? Going to exercises classes will help clean up any times you display bad form, therefore reducing both the likelihood of injury and also the pained expressions of those nearby.
Reason #10 - Fun!
Not only will you be surrounded by people who will grow to be friends, but you'll be in an environment working out with great music often in the background.
Depending on the class (whether it's relaxing or high energy) the instructor will be able to create an atmosphere which helps faciliate the exercises of the class, whether it's a stick of incense and the sound of ocean waves floating through your yoga class or some heavy drum and bass as the instructor sets up one side of the room against the other in an all out "as many reps as possible" challenge!
The importance of fun should also not be overlooked, thinking back to all those who unfortunately drop off the "fitness wagon", fun can be a really strong factor in helping increase motivation and an individuals attendance to classes.
Naturally, if something is fun, you're more likely to continue doing it! Another reason you should be taking advantage of group exercise classes.
Group exercise is essentially the same as heading to the playground with friends when you were a child, although rather than having fun on the slide, you can have fun doing squats instead!
Reason #11 - Cheaper than a Personal Trainer
There's no doubt that a great personal trainer will help you achieve your results faster than working alone, many personal training sessions will start with a comprehensive fitness assessment, analyzing your weak areas, movement patterns and fitness goals, from this a personal program is created to help you towards your goals whilst taking into account any injuries or weak areas in the body.
However, if you've got qualified professionals offering sessions of exercise and guidance at your gym for free, why bankrupt yourself chasing quicker results?
Let's look at the key benefits of personal training to analyse which of these you can obtain easily from signing up to the group exercise classes at your normal gym:
- Accountability & motivation
- Professional guidance
- Personalized exercises
- Injury Rehab
- Sports specific training
As can be seen by the rest of the article, most of these benefits can be achieved through attending the normal group exercise classes which will be already included in most standard gym memberships. The key difference will be that the classes and training will naturally be not as personal as a one on one session.
Routine can easily be created (if not more so) with group exercises as opposed to personal training, often, personal trainers can have multiple clients they need to manage at a specific time, with their most valuable clients sometimes receiving priority, this can naturally cause some variety in your training routines and reduce the likelihood of a long lasting weekly routine being built.
With professional guidance, support and personalized exercises, these can mostly be achieved through group exercises classes alone, particularly if you approach the class instructor personally for their advice on a given issue.
Whilst the group exercise classes won't be 100% targeted to your needs, the ability of an instructor to offer variations should ensure you can both complete all the required exercises and remain challenged. If the class is relatively quiet, you may also find yourself in a position to request specific exercises within a class, more fat burning exercises ready for Summer anyone?
Similarly with making your workouts personalized to your goals, in that it can be achieved to a lesser extent within a group exercise class, injury rehab and sport specific training is slightly more difficult to justify using a group exercise class alone.
An instructor will be able to offer variations to some exercises if you have a specific injury, i.e. adjusting the typical handstand for people with injured wrists, however if you're a competitive athlete or have a long standing injury which needs careful management, a personal trainer will be able to give you that extra level of support and attention to help you reach your goals in a focused yet considerate manner.
So unless you're aiming to compete in the Olympics or you've you've got a long standing back injury that just won't fix itself, it may be worth saving your hard earned cash and making use of the free group exercise classes you already have available at your gym.
Reason #12 - Be Part of a Team
Heading to a group exercise class overtime can generate a sense of camaraderie between members, particularly if a class is fairly difficult, having a team atmosphere can help in pushing yourself further and breaking through that initial barrier of aching and fatigue.
In classes where the class is grouped into opposing teams or the instructors cycle between setting varying individuals different challenges, the additional words / shouts of encouragement can be particularly effective in helping you squeeze more out of your time in the class.
Being a part of a team will not only increase your motivation, but workout out with other people has been shown to increase the intensity in which people workout, thereby increasing the calories burnt even further. Of course, more calories burnt often translates into more fat burnt too!
Think of it as heading into the gym alone, but instead of the other people in the gym working out in their own worlds, they are completing the same exercises as you and cheering you on in the process.
Reason #13 - Better Results
With group exercise results they can. Reason 16 is a combination of some of the benefits already discussed, such as increased motivation, accountability & fun, all of which will ensure you make the most out of your gym membership by attending some of the group exercise classes on offer.
Of course, there will always be place for the individual session, these allow you to work on very specific goals, i.e. building up your shoulder strength, or improving your running technique. However sometimes an individual workout program can lead to a plateau, leaving you frustrated that your progress has slowed, throwing in some variations to you routine can help burst through that plateau by working in ways that you'd not considered yourself.
Incorporating a couple of group exercises classes into your routine if you can should ensure you address your weak areas, make new friends and generally enjoy your time at the gym more and experience better results whilst you're at it.
Group exercise classes are fantastic for truly building a well rounded physique and having fun while you're at it. Gone are the days of dance based aerobics sessions being the only classes on offer. The days of truly effective exercise classes are here.
So there we have it, next time you think about your week of fitness ahead, have a look at all of the different free fitness classes on at your gym and consider which might help you towards your goals. Give it a try for a couple of weeks and see how you feel.
If you're looking to lose weight, you should try and find a nearby HIIT class, or if you're looking to pack on muscle, make sure you know the 3 absolute essentials for building muscle.
What have you got to lose..?
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 How Long Should a Workout Be? - http://www.coachcalorie.com/how-long-should-a-workout-last/
 NFL Rush: NFL Players do Pilates and Yoga - http://www.nflrush.com/story/nfl-rush-yoga-with-the-dolphins--bengals
 Want to burn more Calories? Work out with a friend... - http://www.virginactive.co.uk/active-matters/articles/looking-good/work-out-with-a-friend
 Quote by Aristotle - http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/183896-man-is-by-nature-a-social-animal-an-individual-who
 Exercise Adherence Tips - http://www.appliedsportpsych.org/resource-center/health-fitness-resources/exercise-adherence-tips/