Exercising with others can be cost effective and fun; however, there are some things to consider before deciding if  a group fitness class is for you. Here are 5 tips to make sure you are prepared to make a wise decision about your exercise routine.

  1. Know your limits: Group classes are designed for the masses, not specifically for you. If you have a knee or back problem, the instructor may not have the knowledge or patience to give you alternative exercises. Avoid group programs that focus on your area of pain: if you have a shoulder problem, then avoid boot camps. If you have a knee issue, don’t take step class. It’s always a good idea to meet with a personal trainer to learn appropriate ways to modify activities for your specific issue. Then you can take this knowledge with you to provide yourself with alternatives during a group activity.
  2. Choose a good instructor: Most group fitness classes are large, and only 1 instructor supervises. If this is a class where the instructor does the workout with you, you will not be receiving the coaching necessary to make progress and avoid injury. Choose a group that is smaller, or one where the instructor walks around and coaches rather than doing the workout in front of the group.
  3. Know your goals: A lot of fitness classes are designed around a topic: step, spin, Zumba, Barr, TRX, etc. It can be easy to overwork a certain part of your body-and neglect others-if you are not careful.  If you are looking for total body strength and symmetry, then make sure to choose a variety of classes that will incorporate movements for all muscle groups. If you are desiring just cardio activity, choose a class that appropriately suits the target heart rate needed for cardiovascular improvement.
  4. Look out for progress: Fitness is all about improvement. Our bodies adapt to the regular activities that we do. It’s important that the class you choose has progressions available. One trap of doing fitness classes is the lack of variation and progression. Find ways to do more and create challenges for yourself each time you attend a group.
  5. You are as good as those around you: Who you are with sets the tone for your goals and your results. Choose a fitness program that is slightly above your fitness caliber-if you can do so safely. I don’t recommend going to Jazzercise if you are a healthy, normal weight 20 year old. If you are 50 and healthy and have no joint issues, challenge yourself to join a fitness group that includes resistance training-one that attracts many 30 year olds!

Group fitness programs can be great tools for developing your body and relationships with others. Make sure to choose the program that is best for you, and keep it fresh! You can rise to the challenge and use group fitness to your advantage!