05 Apr Group Fitness a Physicians Point of View

In our current digital culture, all types of information, goods and services are only a mouse click away.  While improving productivity without leaving our desks, the convenience of information technology has led to a sedentary lifestyle in today’s society.  This lack of adequate physical activity is a significant risk factor for numerous chronic diseases.  Fortunately, this can be easily remedied through exercise.

Understanding the necessity of exercise for good health is a simple concept.  Although, determining the right types and amounts of physical activity can be challenging.  With busy schedules and limited time, most individuals want to maximize the results of their workout effort.  Trying to generate your own workout routine—one that is safe, effective, and engaging—is a difficult task.  However, there is a simple solution: Group fitness classes.

Zumba, BodyPump, and Pilates are examples of group fitness activities, which provide great results.   In these instructor led classes, you’ll spend about an hour exercising to energizing music, with anywhere from 10-30 other participants.   These enjoyable exercise routines contain different types of full body movements and are often rhythmically choreographed to the music.  In addition to the vast amount of anecdotal support for group fitness classes, numerous scientific studies have demonstrated their benefit as well.  When compared to traditional solo workouts, some of their main advantages are as follows:

Professional workout

Constructed by professionals, workout routines are safe and effective.  They consist of a variety of challenging and engaging activities.   The basic movements are carefully chosen to target endurance, strength, balance and flexibility.  Regardless of activity, each class contains the four essential exercise phases: warm-up, conditioning, cool-down, and stretching.  Depending on your fitness level or comfort, several optional movements are usually provided.  This is often helpful for people new to a class or who have injuries.

Expert Instruction

Class participation gives you the benefit of live instruction and coaching.  Exercising with correct form is essential for achieving results and to prevent injury.  Professional instructors guide the class on proper form, while demonstrating correct movements.   Most instructors are available before and after classes for specific exercise questions. In addition, they serve as an excellent source of verbal motivation throughout the class.

Exercising with others

Humans are social animals who seek the company and positive reinforcement of others.  Similar to dancing and team sport participation, physical activity is more engaging when performed in a group.  Having shared goals with others promotes a “we’re all in this together” mentality.  Studies have shown that synchronized physical activity elevates mood and increases endorphin levels.  In addition to the camaraderie and support provided by the class, people often experience a motivational element of healthy competition.

The only way exercise will improve your health is if it’s performed on a regular basis.  Therefore, it is important to try out several different types of group fitness classes and find one that’s enjoyable and suited to your goals.  Once you choose a class, try to regularly attend for 6-8 weeks and then see the results for yourself!

– N. Schiffman, MD

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