Feature Article - February 2018
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All Together Now

Harness the Latest Trends in Group Fitness

By Deborah L. Vence

What's Trending?

Some of the top trends right now in group fitness programming include "high-intensity style athletic boot camp classes, indoor cycling, fitness barre classes and programs that measure heart rate or other metrics and allow you to compete for best-in-class ratings," DeSimone said.

For example, "High-intensity style athletic boot camp class includes short duration (usually 20 to 120 seconds) high-intensity drills (sprints, burpees, squat jumps, high knee jogging, etc.), combined with muscle-conditioning work (squats, lunges, push-ups, dumbbell or medicine ball exercises, etc.)," DeSimone explained.

A fitness barre class typically is offered in a studio with a ballet barre. "Exercises are based on dance and Pilates-inspired movements designed to tone muscles using a unique total-body toning approach. Classes typically offer a variety of exercises performed on a mat, light dumbbell work and exercises at the ballet barre," she added.

What's more, sport and private athlete training are moving to small group fitness programming, Gray said.

Also, "I see families capitalizing on the economics and efficiency of time that small group training offers. Lastly, I see huge growth in middle-age and senior populations moving to small group fitness training," she added.

Similarly, Mack said health-related classes (tai chi to improve balance, classes for individuals with arthritis (such as Enhance Fitness), classes for individuals with Parkinson's (like cycling or boxing) and classes geared toward active older adults are among the trends.

For example, Enhance Fitness is described as an evidence-based group exercise program for older adults that uses simple, easy-to-learn movements that motivate individuals (particularly those with arthritis) to stay active throughout their life, according to information from ymca.net. The program has been shown to make notable changes for participants, such as more energy, better balance, increases in upper-body and lower-body strength, more flexibility and range of motion, better sleep, more feelings of happiness and a sense of independence.

Mack noted other trends she sees in group fitness that include mind-body classes (yoga, yoga-fusion, mindfulness), equipment-based classes (cycling, strength training, step, barre, suspension training), functional and athletic-type classes (HIIT or boot camp-like classes) and dance-based classes.

With one of the common trends being HIIT classes, Coopersmith added that there also are different types that are being fused with other formats, such as HIIT-plus-boxing or HIIT-plus-yoga, body weight workouts, digital or online fitness that connects people virtually and cardio modality plus resistance training (such as treadmill plus weights, rowing plus weights, etc.).

The Benefits

The overall benefits for end users of group fitness programming include lower costs, increased social interaction, improved motivation and a higher level of commitment and personal responsibility, Gray said.

"Consistency is key with fitness. Feeling part of a group can keep people consistent," Coopersmith said.

Other benefits include "expertise, people aren't sure how to structure a workout or how hard to push themselves. Having a fitness professional coach takes out the guesswork," she said.

Also, "[It] taps into our natural competitive tendencies. People tend to do more when there are other folks working out alongside of them than they would alone," she said. And, "Encouragement, being part of a group can provide motivation to work hard and stick with, both in class and outside of class."

What's more, DeSimone noted several benefits of group fitness programming that include:

  • Accountability: "Your fellow classmates will cheer you on when you show up and call you out when you don't."
  • Camaraderie: "It's fun working out with friends or foes."
  • Anonymity: "Some class enthusiasts like being 'alone in a crowd' and self-charge from the group energy."
  • Motivation: "The music, the mission, the instructor, the energy—it's contagious."
  • Fun: "Instructors make it entertaining and leave you wanting more."
  • Serve Many: "As a fitness instructor, I can impact more people to lead an active lifestyle than I can in a smaller setting (personal training)."

The health aspects of group fitness programming are related to overall benefits of physical activity, Mack said.

Some of those benefits include weight control, reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome, strengthening bones and muscles, improving mental health and mood, etc., according to information from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website.