Reading through a health club’s pamphlet on the various fitness classes available can sometimes feel like a big mess of energetic adjectives and exclamation points.
I mean, is Pilates and yoga even different?
No worries – this article was written to help you out. I’ll take a deep-dive into some of the best group fitness classes, so you get the knowledge you need to decide on a suitable type for you.
Perks of group fitness classes
You may be wondering:
“Why should I spend extra money on group exercise classes when I work out just fine alone?”
Well – let me give you a few reasons.
Have you ever noticed that you’re more likely to work out harder when surrounded by others than when you’re exercising alone?
Well, you’re not alone. It’s a pretty popular psychological theory known as the Köhler effect – a phenomenon that occurs when a person works harder as a member of a group than when working alone.
And the Köhler effect is especially pronounced in a sports setting.
They’re going through the same pain and discomfort as you are, and they’re still pushing through. So – why shouldn’t you?
If you’ve ever tried to engage the help of a personal trainer for one-on-one sessions, you’d know that their rates can be mind-numbingly high.
What can you do if you still want a certified trainer’s experience and encouragement? Don’t ask for discounts on their services. Trust me, it won’t work. Instead, consider group fitness classes!
Such classes provide certified trainers – you’ll be able to get individualized attention during the sessions for a fraction of the price. And maybe, if you build a good enough relationship with the instructor, they just might give you the discount you’re looking for.
Don’t quote me, though. No promises.
Do you find yourself getting lonelier as you age? It’s not just in your imagination – as you get older, life changes tend to widen the emotional (and physical) distance between you and your existing friends.
The fact that it can be challenging to build new friendships as an adult doesn’t help too.
Should you, therefore, be resigned to loneliness as your circle of friends dwindles?
No! You should try your best to make new friends.
And what better way is there to start than to get yourself off the couch and to a fitness class? Group exercises classes are a fantastic place to meet like-minded people who have similar lifestyle goals and needs as you.
Talk to them, and you’ll discover how easy making new friends can be when you share the same interests.
For the longest time possible, I avoided doing pull-ups. They were just too difficult for me. Until one day, I attended a CrossFit session and saw how many pull-ups some of the other women were cranking out.
I had settled into a boring, and comfortable workout routine where I made up countless reasons as to why I didn’t have to do pull-ups. It was easy doing so because I worked out alone.
But that day, the women at the CrossFit box really opened my eyes and showed me how vital an all-rounded training was.
While I still can’t do many pull-ups consecutively, I now incorporate them into my training regimen.
And this is why group fitness classes are valuable – they can help you discover activities that you may not have considered previously.
You never know: such activities might be the essential puzzle piece that leads to you achieving your fitness goals.
Now that you’re (hopefully) convinced of the reasons why you should take up fitness classes, let’s cover the different types of workout classes in detail.
Best Fitness Group Classes
According to the official Zumba website, this group fitness class is the result of a “happy accident.” Alberto “Beto” Perez – a choreographer and fitness instructor – had to improvise an aerobics class in the mid-1990s when he realized he’d forgotten to bring his regular music.
He ended up playing the salsa and merengue tapes that he had with him, and the first Zumba lesson was born.
Fast forward to today:
Zumba now has nearly 12 million enthusiasts in its classes, and certified instructors in more than 125 countries globally.
But what’s all the fuss about? Well, Zumba is fun! It’s the perfect mix of dance and aerobics that will keep you moving throughout the lesson.
You could potentially burn anywhere between 300 to 900kcal with an hour-long session. Wow – fun, and fat-burning? Count me in!
- Fun – as you know, the more you enjoy your workouts, the more likely you are to continue exercising!
- Great for weight loss – Zumba is an excellent addition to your workout routine as it’s designed to be an intense and efficient calorie-burning workout.
- Various types of classes – there are ten types of classes, so you’re sure to find one that’s suitable for you.
- It can be challenging to keep up with the choreography if you’re new to dancing.
Adaptable and suitable for different ages, this efficient calorie-burning workout is probably one of the best fitness classes for weight loss.
CrossFit is a branded fitness regimen created by Greg Glassman in 2000. In a sense, it is both a training philosophy and a program that seeks to build strength and conditioning through varied and challenging workouts.
Ask anyone who dabbles in fitness, and you’ll find that CrossFit is an incredibly polarizing fitness program; most people either love it or hate it.
The sport is inherently competitive. It encourages participants to push themselves as hard as they can by including a time component to nearly all workouts so they can see where they stand against others.
As a result, CrossFit has been widely criticized for allegedly causing people to suffer from unnecessary injuries. Sounds scary, right?
Don’t be put off by CrossFit just yet! I feel that the fault lies with specific individuals within the sport, rather than with CrossFit itself.
So as long as coaches ensure that participants push themselves to a reasonable degree, CrossFit’s intense nature is excellent for people looking for support and a community that encourages friendly competition.
- Great community aspect – the CrossFit atmosphere encourages members to mingle, so there’s always a feeling of teamwork and camaraderie in the Box.
- You see constant improvement – you get to track your own progress over time, and this can be quite a significant motivating factor!
- Gateway to weightlifting – CrossFit is, without a doubt, the one group fitness class that has introduced a significant number of people to getting off the treadmill and finally lifting some weights.
- Safety is coach-dependent – all it takes to get seriously injured is a bad coach who doesn’t look out for your form.
- Pricey – you might find the bulk of your monthly savings going to your CrossFit box membership (it easily costs two to three times the monthly cost of a commercial gym).
If you’re lucky enough to find a responsible and great coach, CrossFit is undoubtedly one of the best fitness classes for toning. I mean, have you seen the bodies of professional CrossFit athletes?
Prefer to use your own body-weight to workout, instead of relying on machines or dumbbells? TRX is right up your alley then. But what exactly is TRX?
Well, the TRX system refers to a specialized form of suspension training developed by Randy Hetrick – a former U.S. Navy SEAL.
Wait – suspension?
Yes, you read that right. TRX requires the use of the TRX Suspension Trainer a training tool that leverages gravity and the user’s body weight for completion of exercises. The unique training program aims to develop strength, balance, flexibility, and core stability simultaneously.
That might sound like an awful lot to accomplish, but don’t be intimidated.
TRX’s simplified approach to training is based on seven basic movements. The program promises that you’ll build a better body once you master the following:
- Convenience – you don’t have to lug around additional equipment or accessories, in fact, you could attend TRX classes barefoot if you wanted to!
- Great for toning – training with body-weight ensures that you’re only toning your muscles, not bulking them up.
- Low impact – its inherent suspended nature ensures that you’ll train comfortably and with less risk of causing or agitating a pre-existing injury.
- Safety – potentially dangerous for those who haven’t built up their core strength.
- Insufficient lower body training – you’ll probably get the same amount (or even less) of stimulus to the leg muscles as you would with standard body-weight training.
Trying to make your way back into fitness? You’ll appreciate TRX’s low-impact and convenient training philosophy – it’s definitely one of the best fitness classes for beginners.
When I first heard of “barre classes” from my friends, the first thing I thought of was a pain. Wait – you mean images of blistered feet did not flash by in your mind?
Well, you’ve obviously had a very different experience with going en pointe (standing on your feet) than I did when I was a child.
Fortunately for me (and you), barre is not painful.
It’s actually a workout technique that’s inspired by elements of ballet, yoga, and Pilates. Barre classes primarily focus on low-impact, high-intensity isometric movements designed to strengthen and tone your body.
Movement is actually very minimal in the session. In fact, you’ll frequently hear instructors telling you, “down an inch, up an inch.”
Don’t think that barre classes are easy, though! Sessions have been designed to fatigue each muscle group of yours one by one. You should definitely prepare for sore muscles the next day.
- Works the small muscles – produces a slender, rather than bulky, look.
- Low risk of injuries – you’re only using your body-weight to workout.
- Fun – you get to bob along to trending, pop music.
- Pricey – one month of unlimited classes can set you back by $200.
- May get boring – you’re pretty much doing the same thing workout, after workout.
While not precisely the most budget-friendly option, choosing to go for barre classes is an excellent option for those who prefer a slender, active look.
Confession time: I used to think that yoga was nothing more than just stretching. Oh, how wrong I was. Yoga is infinitely more complex and meaningful than I gave it credit for.
The practice of yoga was collated by the Indian sage, Patanjali, into the Yoga Sutra nearly 2000 years ago.
Not that kind of Sutra. The Sutra that I’m talking about consists of 195 statements that serve as a philosophical guidebook for most of the yoga practiced today.
In the Western world, ‘yoga’ often refers to a modern form of Hatha yoga. This variation consists mostly of body postures called asanas.
Hatha practices combine a series of basic movements with breathing. They have been designed to align and calm your body, mind, and spirit so you can open your mind for meditation.
Don’t assume that you’ll fall asleep, though.
Many people find the poses challenging and work up a sweat during the sessions. I know I did. In short, yoga is a total mind-body workout that does more than burn calories and tone muscles.
- Relieves stress – you’ll be exposed to a calming environment that will reduce your anxiety levels by the end of class.
- Improves the mind – meditation helps with inner strength and focus.
- Full-body workout – you’ll slowly improve on your flexibility, stamina, and muscle strength.
- Costly – joining a yoga studio can be expensive.
There must be a reason why everyone has heard about yoga: it’s definitely one of the best workout classes for beginners who want to work on their flexibility.
And it is great for relieving stress and helping with anxiety.
I don’t blame you if you have a hard time differentiating between yoga and Pilates. But the two exercises are, in fact, different. If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll know that yoga is a meditative practice.
And this is where we can see one of the most significant differences between yoga and Pilates.
Pilates is a traditional exercise routine initially developed to help injured athletes. Its main goals include strengthening the core, improving posture, stabilizing the spine, and promoting overall strength and balance.
Pilates moves tend to focus on working your core. Think this will be too easy for you because you’ve got great abs already? Not so fast – the core includes the entire trunk.
That means in addition to your abs, your hips, back, inner, and outer thighs will also be worked.
This means we can in some ways compare Pilates to Weight training.
Expect to be sore throughout the day after a Pilates class. Exciting!
- Improves balance and flexibility – you’ll gradually improve as Pilates sessions consist of you putting yourself into unstable postures.
- Useful for injury rehabilitation – Pilates promotes agility and excellent posture and is a great physical therapy alternative.
- Strengthens core muscles – you’ll achieve greater engagement of your core.
- Anaerobic workout – does not burn as many calories as you would with aerobic exercises like running.
Adding Pilates into your routine can help you with other aspects of your fitness – run better, swim faster, or even improve your flexibility so you can take more yoga classes!
I finally understand why it’s one of the most popular group fitness classes around.
If you’re a big fan of high-intensity workouts, you should definitely give spin classes a go.
But hang on – what are spin classes, you ask? Well, a spin class is a cycling workout that generally takes place on an indoor stationary machine with a heavy, weighted flywheel attached to the pedals.
Just a fair bit of warning:
Your first time at a spin class can be intimidating. There’ll be an assertive instructor shouting at you to go harder, and faster throughout the session. Instructors mean well though: they just want you to push yourself harder, so you get more out of your workout.
Worried that you’ll get bored of pedaling?
Don’t be – the classes have been designed to keep you on your toes.
Within a session, intensities vary: you will enter into different intervals of seated and standing work over the 45-minutes class. There’ll be different riding positions that you’ll have to get into as well!
My legs were sore beyond measure the day after I attended my first spin class. Consider yourself warned.
- Great for weight-loss – you can potentially burn 400 to 600 calories per class, depending on the intensity of the instructor and how hard you push yourself.
- Fun – you might forget that you’re working out when you’re cycling to the beat of the music.
- Motivating – seeing all the sweat-drenched bodies working hard beside you can push you to go harder than if you exercise alone.
- Limited upper body training – it’s only a fantastic exercise for your legs and core.
- Not much variety – the basic cycling motion performed throughout the session can get repetitive.
Its high-intensity nature makes it one of the best group fitness classes to go for if you want to lose weight.
Choosing the Right Group Exercise Class
That was a lot of information to take in. I’d understand if you are still unsure of the specific fitness class you want to sign up for.
Let me give you a hand by providing a general guideline:
Personal Fitness Goals
Before you’ impulse buy’ out of sheer confusion, you should first establish your fitness goal. If your main objective is to build a stronger upper body, you most definitely shouldn’t sign up for spinning classes.
After eight weeks of furious pedaling, you’ll find that your upper body still looks the same as it did before.
Here’s a rough breakdown of four of the most common health and fitness goals, and the classes that are most aligned to them.
- Weight loss – Zumba, Spinning
- Strength gains – CrossFit, TRX, Barre
- Running or walking event – Yoga, Pilates
You need to find group fitness classes that fit your schedule. Definitely take into account the total time you need to allocate to the class – be sure to include the time taken for your to-and-fro journey, in addition to the session’s length.
If you are an incredibly busy person, choose shorter fitness classes. Many spinning classes only last for 45 minutes: opt for them if you must.
Nevertheless, many health clubs plan out class schedules such that they accommodate many different schedules.
It shouldn’t be too difficult for you to find a group exercise class that fits into your schedule.
Imagine having to travel over an hour just to get to your fitness class.
How long do you think you’ll be able to keep that up before you skip out on a session? Always choose a fitness class that is near your house or your work-place.
Maybe even try new activities together! The possibilities are endless. But you’d never know if you live a hundred miles away.
Ultimately, it’s essential for you to to pick a group exercise class that best fits your personal preferences and fitness goals. Hate meditation?
Well, then you don’t have to do yoga just because everyone else in your office is gushing about it.
This is where our in-depth list of some of the best group fitness classes comes in – take your pick!
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