Select the Best Workout Class for Your Goals, Fitness Level & Lifestyle
Picking a group fitness class can often feel like a crapshoot. The names, descriptions and advertised benefits for every class can sound oddly similar, leaving you confused and uncertain. Pair that with the fact that it can be difficult to dig up any details about your instructor – fingers crossed that you don’t get a screamer – and the process can become a full-blown leap of faith. Fortunately, there is a method to the madness, all it takes is a few deep breaths and a little extra guidance.
If you’re searching for the perfect group fitness class to help you hit your goals and stay motivated, here’s a quick guide to help you pick the best class for you!
- Mental Wellbeing
- Various Sub-Practices
- Core Strength
Yoga has rapidly gone from a niche eastern practice to a mainstream group fitness class offering. When practiced consistently, yoga can improve your physical, mental, intellectual and spiritual health. It‘s also shown to reduce stress, anxiety and depression and improve flexibility and core strength. In fact, one study showed that regularly performing Hatha yoga could help improve functional fitness – the ability to perform everyday movements efficiently – in older adults as effectively as strength training or stretching! 
One thing to note if you opt to go the yoga route: not all yoga classes are one and the same. There are many types of yoga, ranging from Hatha yoga to Vinyasa yoga. Some practices place a heavier emphasis on breathing and mindfulness while others focus more on physicality and technique. So, before you pay the big bucks to join a boutique yoga studio, be sure to test the waters with a trial or short-term membership.
- Extensive Caloric Burn
- Fun & Engaging
Indoor cycling is one of the most universally practiced group fitness classes available. From the United States to Australia, its popularity spans the globe, making it easy to find a class almost anywhere you go! While the experience level for classes can often vary, most indoor cycling classes are unimposing and allow people from all walks of life to attend, enjoy and get results. What’s more, the class environment is invigorating, with upbeat playlists and instructors that make even the most grueling class a truly enjoyable experience.
Beyond the good vibes, it’s also a killer workout! One hour-long indoor cycling class performed at a moderate intensity will help you burn 420 to 622 calories per hour. Crank the intensity up to a vigorous level and that number jumps to 630 to 932 calories burned per hour. It has comparable cardiovascular benefits to running, but is low-impact, which makes it easier on your joints and ligaments. You’ll also work your quads, glutes, calves, core and hamstrings! For anyone looking for a challenging workout with an easy, approachable crowd, indoor cycling is one of the best options available. 
- Core Strength
- Passionate Instructors
- Improved Flexibility
Pilates is a form of group fitness training that centers its technique around a practice known as Contrology, which emphasizes the mind-body connection, breathing and controlled movements. In simpler terms, Pilates is a fantastic core workout that improves functional fitness. It has also shown to help improve balance, flexibility and core endurance. Don’t be fooled by the external tranquility these classes exude though, as Pilates workouts can be extremely challenging, especially in more advanced classes. So be sure to check the advertised experience level before you book your first class. 
There are typically two primary types of Pilates classes you can take, both of which have similar health and fitness benefits: Classical Pilates and Contemporary Pilates. Classical Pilates classes follow the same exact exercises and sequences that were passed down by the inventor of the practice, Joseph Pilates. Conversely, Contemporary Pilates classes use the original teachings but also incorporates more modern movements and practices. Put simply, if routine and structure are your thing, Classical Pilates is probably your jam. If you tend to take life a little less serious, Contemporary Pilates is probably more up your alley.
CrossFit® & HIFT Classes
- Extremely Motivating
- Improved Functional Fitness
- Close-knit Community
CrossFit and other classes have experienced a surge in popularity over the past decade. The phenomenon has become so big that there are now over 13,000 Crossfit gyms in more than 120 countries, up from just 13 in 2005. CrossFit classes are a packaged combination of high-intensity functional fitness (HIFT) exercises involving Olympic weight lifting, gymnastics, plyometrics and cardio exercises, with various other HIFT methodologies often thrown into the mix.
The upside of CrossFit’s rigorous workout routines is that you can torch a ton of calories and get a truly challenging, athletic workout. The CrossFit culture is also very community-driven, making it easier for members to stay motivated and hit their goals, or PRs (personal records), as members often call them. However, while the wide-variety of exercises and techniques applied from class to class adds to CrossFit’s excitement, it also makes it difficult for scientific research to conclusively determine its fitness-related benefits. In a nutshell, if you’re looking for a class with consistently challenging workouts, exciting new exercises and highly motivated members, CrossFit should probably go on your short list of options to consider. 
Zumba® & Dancing Classes
- Fun & Engaging
- Worldwide Classes
- Moderate Caloric Burn
If intensity and raw athleticism aren’t really your thing, but you still want to stay in shape, break out your dancing shoes (which in this case would be workout shoes) for a fun-filled rhythmic workout! Dancing at a fast pace (e.g., the twist, Zumba and ballet) can burn 360 to 532 calories per hour and is a great low-impact aerobic workout for people of all shapes and sizes. It has also shown to improve balance and functional fitness in older adults. 
One of the most popular forms of dancing classes in the fitness world is Zumba®, a dance-based group fitness class inspired by various Latin American styles of dance, including hip-hop, soca, samba, salsa, merengue and mambo. Over 15 million people across 186 countries take Zumba classes every week and it’s conveniently offered at most major gym chains.
While it’s a great calorie-burning workout session that helps improve your overall fitness, the most talked about benefit among its loyal community is the fun, energetic feeling that radiates from each class. That feeling is reinforced by the loyal community of Zumba lovers who wear vibrant neon workout attire that matches the ear-to-ear smiles they’re always sporting. But if you’re ideal group fitness class is less about fun and excitement and more focused on bottom-line results, there are several other options on this list that you’ll likely enjoy more. 
- Stay Cool
- Injury Prevention & Recovery
If you’ve ever been to a gym with a pool, you may have seen a group of people with plastic yellow weights performing synchronized movements in the pool from time to time. That group of people was likely an aqua aerobics class, an option found on the group fitness class schedule at many gyms. Aqua aerobics burn 240 to 356 calories per hour. But it’s not the caloric burn that draws most people into this type of class, it’s the benefits that come from getting a safe, low-impact workout. 
Aqua aerobics classes are excellent workouts for people who want to stay in shape without exposing themselves to the risk of injury that comes with more intense workouts. The lack of gravitational force imposed on the body combined with the inability to make sharp, intense movements makes for a safe, risk-free workout environment. As such, it’s an ideal option for people looking to maintain muscle mass as they age, as well as those recovering from injuries. Heck, even if you don’t fall into those two groups, you may just like the refreshing feeling of working out in a pool!
- Extensive Caloric Burn
- High-Octane Tempo
- Improves Speed & Agility
Kickboxing classes are another great way to get an awesome calorie-torching workout! Just one hour of kickboxing will help you burn 600 to 888 calories per hour. What’s more, it also has shown to help increase upper-body power, flexibility, speed and agility. 
Beyond those benefits, kickboxing is an incredibly engaging type of group fitness class. Many first timers are often shocked at the amount of energy it takes to perform a simple combination of kicks and punches. However, just because you’re throwing blows doesn’t mean this class is only for the super aggressive crowd, as kickboxing is also an art form in its own right that requires timing and synchronization.
- Builds Strength
- Improves Flexibility
Barre classes center their workouts around a ballet barre, the handrail often used in ballet classes and warm-ups. It was developed in the 1950s by Lotte Ber, a German dancer who wanted a way to combine her dance routine with injury rehab. Barre has gone from being a relatively small practice with mostly dancers for students to a popular mainstream group fitness class, both in the US and internationally.
Due to its ballet-inspired roots, barre utilizes many of the basic movements (e.g., lift, tuck, curl) found in ballet classes. These tiny, one-inch movements – known as isometric contractions – vary greatly from the full-body movements performed in the more high-octane group fitness classes on this list. But appearances can be deceiving, and despite the lack of pronounced movements and intense exertion, the isometric contractions performed in barre classes can help improve strength, posture and flexibility in multiple muscle groups.
Some Barre classes mix other training methods into the class, including moves from Yoga, Pilates and even functional training practices. So if you decide barre is for you, be sure to test drive a few clubs and classes to figure out if you prefer variety or a more traditional class.