THE MANY BENEFITS OF GROUP FITNESS CLASSES

WRITTEN BY KATE HILLIARD

Contributer - Coach

Group classes are hard work. They often involve high intensity workouts - and are often held early in the morning or after a day of work. But after the workout, once their breathing has returned to normal, you'll see people breaking into smiles, high-fiving each other, saying how much fun they had, how it was the best way they could have started the day.

For too many people the gym seems overwhelming. The large variety of equipment, the foreign movements, every pair of eyes that feel like they’re always watching. It can seem like too much and too often remains a barrier to people getting their bodies moving and having a chance to understand how good their bodies have the potential to feel. The idea of getting a personal trainer to help educate themselves is a great step in the right direction, but for many this can be out of the question financially, further adding to the apprehension people can feel trying to add gym training to their lifestyle.

The middle ground? Group fitness classes have slid right in and have been wildly successful. There have been multitudes of studies showing the plethora of physical benefits group exercise sessions have for wide ranges of people with various levels of pre-existing health conditions.

These benefits stem from having a targeted warm up and cool down, a considered and relevant program to follow with professional instruction and personal feedback. In addition, group classes will often have clientele of different fitness levels, including from the very beginner - and as such, the movements will always be tailored and taught for the beginner level with the goal of improving and building on solid foundations, introducing more advanced movements as they become appropriate.

"Group fitness classes offer so much more to people than a chance to purely explore and improve their fitness. They open up social interactions and friendships, offer a chance to learn how to move well all in a comfortable, accessible environment and are often the first point of call for those wanting to get in the gym."

In the physical sense, group fitness classes tick a lot of boxes. However more often than not, when clients are asked why they keep coming back or what keeps them motivated these physical benefits are one of the last things mentioned. Instead, higher up on the list are the bonds people create training alongside each other and the accountability they hold to one another (both in terms of numbers hit in a class and basic attendance). Training alongside people of similar fitness level can add the drive to push harder and achieve more through their sessions as a team effort. The feel-good smiles and high fives after classes can often lead to coffee (or protein shake) after and further socialising from there. Often this ends up being the reason people to do this three or four times a week. Some of the most successful class-based style gyms are so successful not necessarily from their superior programming, but their emphasis on community and valuing what their can members contribute as well as what they can take away.

The Kohler Effect describes this motivation as not wanting to be the weakest in a group setting - motivating increased performance in all participants.

While every gym will have their own fancy names and variations, these are some of the more common group classes to consider:

  • Indoor Cycling - Spinning: Classes focus on endurance, strength, and high intensity training using the stationary bike
  • Boxing: In a group setting boxing is less about sparing with an opponent, and more about engaging with the movements - improving endurance, co-ordination and stamina.
  • HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training): Large movements, engaging every muscle. Short intervals of less than a minute for maximum effort.
  • Yoga: Develop strength, balance and focus through deliberate movements. Reduce stress and increasing mental wellbeing.
  • Pilates: build up your core with low impact flexibility and muscular strength and endurance movements.
  • Toning and strength: Usually involving kettlebells and going through a circuit to improve muscle tone and cardio fitness.
  • Running: Running in a group is a lot of fun and offers a great way to get out and about and explore new areas while making friends.

Group fitness classes offer so much more to people than a chance to purely explore and improve their fitness. They open up social interactions and friendships, offer a chance to learn how to move well all in a comfortable, accessible environment and are often the first point of call for those wanting to get in the gym.