Group exercise, or group fitness classes as they are also known, are a familiar sight in gyms, leisure centres, studios, and village and community halls. Currently 4.86 million people take part every week and this number is growing rapidly with over one million more weekly participants since 2016. With a range of classes to choose from, such as Pilates, dance fitness and boot camps, group exercise provides an accessible activity for those looking to start a regular exercise routine; one reason why it has featured heavily in Sport England’s This Girl Can campaign.
Aside from the physical health benefits, group exercise promotes a wealth of mental and social benefits. These include lowering anxiety, increasing self-esteem and wellbeing, and the chance to meet new friends.
If you have never been to a group exercise class before, below is some information you might find helpful before you go.
Where to find a class
The best place to find group exercise classes local to you in via classfinder, the largest directory of classes in the UK. Simply visit the website and enter your postcode at https://www.classfinder.org.uk/
What to wear
Generally speaking, wear whatever you are most comfortable in, however jeans are not suitable. If you are doing a yoga or Pilates class, make sure your bottoms have plenty of stretch and don’t restrict your movement.
You also don’t want to wear anything with a tight waistband that is likely to dig in.
If you are taking part in an indoor cycling class, it is advisable not to wear bottoms that are too baggy as they might get in the way of the bike parts. Shorts, leggings or slim jogging bottoms would be advisable.
Wear something that is going to keep you cool and comfortable during your class. Cotton is a good material but avoid polyester fabrics that don’t allow your skin to breathe.
If you are in any doubt, contact your instructor before the class.
What to bring
When you work out you are going to sweat. Sweat is good! It is your body’s way of cooling down and is a sign that you are working hard and benefiting from your exercise class. Be proud to sweat and don’t be embarrassed; it’s what you are paying your money for.
Taking a sports towel or hand towel along with you to your class is a good idea. This is so you can towel off your sweat as you work out and also wipe down your mat or any equipment when you finish.
You may need an additional towel for a shower after your class if there are facilities. Check in advance whether the venue provides towels and shower gel. Some do, and some don’t so give them a call and bring along your own supplies if needed.
It is really important to stay hydrated when you are exercising so make sure you bring a bottle of water with you. Staying hydrated will help to give you more energy and will replace any fluids you loose during your workout.
Avoid fizzy or concentrated drinks immediately before your class. Some venues will provide water stations but if you are attending a class in the community this is unlikely.
If you are attending a class for the first time and are feeling nervous or anxious, get in contact with the instructor and discuss how you feel. If you are attending a class in the community, call the instructor and arrange to meet before the class so you can ask questions and make them aware that it is your first time. If you are attending a class at a gym or leisure centre, contact reception and ask them to arrange a time for you to meet with the instructor in advance. Instructors are there to support you and will be happy to put your mind at ease and talk you through their class, so you know what to expect.
It is especially important to speak to the instructor prior to attending the class if you have any medical conditions or previous injuries they need to be aware of. You should seek advice from your doctor before undertaking and form of exercise if you are in any doubt about your health.
Before embarking on a new fitness regime, always consult your doctor.
Always inform your instructor of any medical conditions or changes to your health before taking part in any class.
If you feel unwell, stop immediately and tell your instructor.
The exercise class
A group exercise class will typically be between 40-60 minutes depending on the type and style of class you attend.
There will be a series of gentle exercises at the start and end of the class to help warm up and relax your muscles. This helps to prevent injury. Your instructor will tell you when the main section of the class begins and ends and will give you prompts so you can follow the moves or steps and give guidance on posture or technique to be used.
Throughout the class, work to your own abilities. If at any stage you are struggling to keep up, don’t be afraid to take a breather. The instructor will encourage you to have a drink and join in again when you are ready. Remember, an exercise class is not meant to be easy, but it should be fun so go at your own pace and enjoy the experience.
Once you’ve finished the class, take a moment to catch your breath, have a drink and congratulate yourself. Hopefully you’ve had a positive and enjoyable experience that you will want to repeat but if not, be sure to speak to the instructor immediately afterwards. If you didn’t enjoy the class, you should be honest about your experience so the instructor can advise you on another type of class that might be more suitable or address the issues you have so you can enjoy it the next time.
Group exercise creates a community of friends. Keep yourself and others inspired and motivated by joining the classfinder Facebook page here. You can also sign up for the monthly classfinder newsletter, packed with handy tips and workout news here.