5 ways to find the right exercise class for you
There are so many benefits to staying active. They include improved brain health, reduced disease risk, and stronger bones and muscles.1 To get those perks, current guidelines recommend that adults get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a week.2
One often-overlooked way to get in enough exercise? With a fitness class.
Fitness classes are taught by instructors and come in many varieties. They are a great way to keep up a routine for people who may struggle with motivation.
The best exercise class is one that meets people’s physical needs and health goals, and fits into their schedule. Here are 5 things to consider when looking for — and ultimately choosing — a fitness class.
1. Check out locations
The first step is finding a place that offers fitness classes. Some happen online, while others are only offered in person. Some have younger participants, some older.3
Where to start? Do an internet search for local fitness classes. There are different options depending on the type of class a person is seeking.4 Some locations can be visited for free to see if they’re a good fit. The main types of places include:
- Gyms: Gyms offer many types of fitness classes.4 Most gyms have a regular membership fee. Classes might be included in that fee or for an extra cost. Upon joining, some gyms give people a free first class to see if it’s a good fit.
- Fitness studios: Yoga, pilates and other specific classes can often be found in fitness studios, says Sivan Fagan, a certified personal trainer.
- Community centers/fitness centers/health clubs: These facilities can offer a variety of different fitness classes in the local community.4 Locations with pools may feature water aerobic classes. Those with gym equipment may have specific fitness classes. Some include studios for yoga, pilates and other group activities.4
If people are interested in virtual options, they can look into classes from national gyms and fitness studies. People can also Google “online fitness classes” or “fitness apps” to find services they can stream over their smart phone, computer or (possibly) TV. Apps may have monthly or yearly subscriptions, and some offer a free or lower-cost trial period.
2. Take health and fitness level into account
People will want to make sure a fitness class is safe for them. Talk to a primary care provider (PCP) to learn what types of exercise may be best for any health issues.5 A PCP can also help determine if people should start, maintain or increase their exercise levels.
If you’re unsure whether a class is the right type, call the class instructor or organization offering the class. Ask how intense the class might be.
People with bad knees, for example, should avoid high-intensity interval training (HIIT) classes. That type of exercise program can involve a lot of jumping, says Fagan.
New to a specific exercise type? Start with a beginner-level class to see if it’s a good fit, Fagan suggests. “If you’re a beginner and you take a class that’s a little bit more advanced, you’re not going to know how to perform those movements. And the teacher’s likely not going to stop the class and work with you on how to do a proper squat, so you’re going to end up doing 15 squats with not the best form,” Fagan says. “Sooner or later, your joints are not going to feel great.”
3. Identify fitness goals
It’s good for people to think through the results they’re hoping to achieve from a class. Here are a few classic examples of fitness goals:
- Gaining flexibility
- Improving heart health1
- Weight loss
Let’s say a person wants to improve flexibility and build muscle. A weightlifting or Pilates class might be a good choice.2 If burning more calories and getting the heart pumping is important, cycling or a vigorous aerobics class might be good options.2 Keep in mind that classes advertised as calorie-burners tend to be advanced, Fagan notes.
4. Choose something appealing
Getting exercise is something everyone should do, but for some it can feel like a chore.
“Some people love to exercise, some people don’t, and that’s okay,” Fagen says. “But the answer isn’t ‘don’t exercise because you don’t enjoy it.’ It’s important. Find a type of exercise that you actually enjoy — that’s the key.”
Certain types of classes or class structures can offer different fitness experiences. Some classes are low intensity. Others are more strenuous. Consider first what type of experience might be most motivating to stick with.
Fortunately, there are fitness classes aimed at just about every interest and ability.
- Love to dance? Try a dance-cardio or barre class.
- Love the water? Consider water aerobics.
- Get bored easily? Choose a class that combines multiple types of movement. That could include a dance class (such as Zumba) or a weight-lifting class that mixes in cardio.
5. Get the right teacher
Once a person knows what type of class they’re interested in and where it’s being offered, check who is teaching the class. It’s important that the instructor has credentials, Fagan stresses.
Fitness trainers and instructors need only a high school diploma or equivalent to have a job in the field.6 But there are a number of accrediting bodies that certify the role.7 Fitness-related employers do tend to hire trainers and instructors with certifications.6
Overall fitness classes can be a great exercise option for people who need the motivation of a scheduled activity, or for those who enjoy the socialization benefits of a group. Once people find a class that fits their interests and health needs, it may be easier to get in enough activity — and have a good time doing so.