For many people, exercising in a group increases motivation and adds enjoyment to a fitness program. Having a regular time and place to work out can also benefit those of us who have trouble fitting exercise into a busy schedule. But if you are new to the world of fitness classes, the array of choices may be overwhelming (spinning, kick-boxing, yoga, Pilates, step classes, power-pump, super circuit, hip-hop, Tae Bo, the choices are endless) . If you don't know how to decide on the right exercise class for you, consider the following points:
- What are the instructor's qualifications and training? Fitness instructors should be certified by a nationally accredited agency such as the American Council on Exercise. Instructors should be willing to share their training, experience, and credentials with you. A properly trained instructor can help you adapt the exercises and movements to your own fitness level and medical needs, thereby decreasing your chance of developing or aggravating an injury. A qualified instructor should also tailor your fitness program to achieve your personal fitness goals (weight loss, strength building, increasing flexibility and endurance).
- Where and when is the class held? How close is it to your home or work? If the location of the class isn't convenient, you may find more and more reasons not to attend. Likewise, the timing of the class shouldn't put an undue strain on your schedule.
- What type of exercise activity interests you the most? Years ago, generic "aerobic" classes were the norm. Today, you can choose among step aerobics, kick-boxing, strength training, trekking, spinning, cardiovascular fitness, ballet fitness, low-impact aerobics, yoga, Pilates, body sculpting, and water aerobics, just to name a few.
- Is it possible to attend a variety of classes? Trainers agree that the secret to effective workouts is to vary your routine and program to constantly challenge your body.
- How crowded is the class? Some popular classes fill up 30 minutes in advance and require early arrival and sign-up. Other classes may allow unlimited participants in cramped quarters. Be sure the class size doesn't produce a stressful, hectic environment.
- Can you observe a class or take a trial class for free before you commit? Most gyms or fitness studios will often provide a free one or two week pass to try the facility prior to a financial commitment. Trying the facility will give you a good idea if will meet your needs (both in fitness options, as well as observing the staff, and cleanliness of the facility).
- How does the instructor interact with participants? A good instructor encourages the attainment of personal goals and discourages a competitive atmosphere within the class. The teacher should also be able to suggest modifications of the routines to accommodate beginners, more advanced exercisers, and those with special physical challenges. The instructor should also be open and welcoming to all participants.
- What are the costs of the class? Classes at community centers and the YMCA are often significantly cheaper than private health clubs. Are there additional charges beyond membership fees for certain classes? If the class or program isn't for you, are there cancellation fees or penalties? Be wary of policies that require you to lock yourself into a long contract. If child care is offered, are there additional charges for it? If child care is offered, find out what the hours are, staff to child ratio, and condition of the child care facility.
- What are the facilities like? Is the equipment well maintained and in good repair? Is the place clean, well lit, and well ventilated? Are the locker and shower facilities similarly clean and appealing?
- Finally, is the class fun? Do you look forward to going? An exercise class should, above all, be enjoyable and invigorating. If the thought of attending the class fills you with dread, you're probably not going to stick with it.
If necessary, try several different places, types of classes and different instructors until you find the right fit for you.
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