Creating a workout routine often takes some trial and error. You have to learn what time of day you prefer to workout, styles of exercise you enjoy, and studios and gyms that are convenient to your area. There quite a few logistics involved before you even get to the first workout!
Even after a routine has been created, sticking to it can be tricky. It takes time—thankfully, there are tools within the fitness world that work to support routines and your overall fitness goals.
Group fitness is a great option for those who want help staying motivated, sticking to a routine, or even just need some accountability. Most group fitness sessions are led by a certified instructor, so you can expect more direction and form corrections than a solo gym workout.
What is Group Fitness?
Group fitness is an exercise program done with other people and is usually led by an instructor. According to Dr. Shelley Armstrong, program director for Walden University’s College of Health Professions undergraduate programs, some examples of group fitness programs include:
- Water aerobics
- Strength training
- Tai chi
Who Should Take Group Fitness Classes?
Everyone can benefit from the accountability and direction of group fitness classes. There is a set schedule, a certified instructor, and a group of people to work alongside.
The set schedule and group of people create accountability. Studies have found that supportive accountability measures (like a class setting) help adults achieve their fitness goals, as well as goals in other areas of life.
Since group fitness classes are led by a certified instructor, chances are high you’ll benefit on a physicality level as well. It can be difficult to constantly check your form while working out, so having a person to assist you and correct as needed can help mitigate injury. Whether you’re new to the gym or just looking for a change of pace, class settings provide learning opportunities for all fitness levels.
Benefits and Psychology Behind Group Fitness
There are a lot of benefits to taking a group fitness class. It is good for your social health, can create set schedules and accountability, can build confidence, and even helps you gain support and motivation.
Group fitness can help you socialize and gain support, as noted by Mat Kite, BS, CSCS, Director of Education for D1 Training. There is security in having others around you who are working toward a common goal, and the support helps to overcome a lot of concerns for beginners, such as fear of difficulty or failure.
It’s also easier to create realistic expectations for yourself when you see other people experiencing the same thing as you in real time.
One study found that group fitness has a positive impact on your social health. The participants reported a sense of security in the community by helping to support and uplift each other. This study also notes that older individuals benefited, too—the group could support each other without regard to age.
A study found that exercising two or three times a week led to social, mental, and physical benefits. Choosing workout classes with a variety of class times can help you meet that criteria of at least two sessions per week.
If you go to a group fitness program, you dedicate specific days and times to work out with others. This means that there is always a part of your schedule dedicated to working out. There is also accountability in knowing that someone will notice if you do not work out during that set time.
Despite having a set schedule, Dr. Armstrong notes that those who partake in group fitness are more likely to change up the workout routine. This stops you from always doing the same workouts, leading to lower workout intensity and a higher risk of injury.
“Group training is a great way to find motivation and actually enjoy your workouts,” according to John Gardner, a NASM certified personal trainer and the Co-Founder & CEO of Kickoff. He notes that group training is like a social gathering, and working out with others is a great way to create competition and motivation.
A study performed on older individuals found that group fitness helped improve motivation, both due to the mental and physical benefits the individuals experienced and the impact of positive social interaction. It was even noted that these individuals experienced positive behavioral changes that improved their daily lives.
Often, stress contributes to a lack of motivation in exercise and other aspects of life. A study on medical students has found that group fitness helped them feel less stressed and raised their physical, mental, and emotional quality of life.
Kite points out that group fitness is the first step for many people interested in personal training. Not having all the attention on you can be a relief to some, and it costs less to attend group fitness sessions than one-on-one sessions.
He notes, “It’s very common for group training individuals to start exploring other training options once they begin seeing results, building confidence, and seeking new goals.”
How to Set a Group Fitness Routine
The trickiest part in setting a group fitness routine is choosing what class style you would like to take. There are many options, and even if you can’t find a particular type of class near you, you may be able to find it online.
Think about the kind of exercise that appeals to you. Do you like swimming? Running? Yoga? Or maybe you prefer to lift weights. There are even martial arts classes in many areas. If you choose to attend sessions in-person, searching for “fitness studios near me” is a quick way to see what options you have available.
“Many group fitness offerings are targeted at working adults, so they are offered early in the morning, as lunchtime express sessions or after work hours,” says Armstrong. As a result, you should be able to find a group fitness routine that matches your schedule.
If you attend a group fitness session and don’t like the type of exercise or even dislike the vibe, that’s okay. You should find an exercise, location, and instructor that you enjoy—that’s what will keep up your motivation to attend.
What to Look for in Group Fitness Classes
When looking for a group fitness class, there can be a lot of options available to you, especially if you live in a large metropolitan area. Here are some things to consider when looking for a group fitness class:
When looking for a group fitness class, you should check the credibility of the instructor teaching it. Always look for an instructor with a health or fitness-related degree, preferably a specialty certification in the class they are teaching. That way they’ll know the proper form help you prevent injuries.
A safe environment can refer to many aspects of where group fitness sessions are held. First, you should look at the space you’ll be taking the class at. Preferably, the space would be clean and have the proper equipment to keep you safe and comfortable (like floor mats, sweat towels, and locker rooms if you’ll need them).
A safe environment also means a space where you feel welcome, no matter your race, gender, or sexual orientation.
A Time You Can Stick To
When choosing a group fitness session, you will also want to ensure that you can make the scheduled time without hassle. For example, it’s probably not a great idea to plan on working out directly after work if you usually work late and are tired after work. Choose a time with minimal scheduling conflicts.
“Group fitness is great for beginners, as there are many ways to modify exercises to make them work for you, no matter where you are in your fitness journey or if you have any pre-existing injuries,” says Steve Halloran, certified trainer, nutrition specialist, and the Co-Founder and Chief Experience Officer of RockBox Fitness.
Before a class starts, be sure to communicate with your instructor about any injuries, complications, or medical considerations that you have. You can often alter certain poses or exercises to be safer for you. Even if a certain exercise or pose is challenging due to your fitness level, you can change it so you can work up to the original exercise or pose.