Fitness: Safety in numbers

Over the last couple of decades, group fitness classes have grown, not only in popularity, but also in diversity. It has certainly come a long way from the neon-coloured leggings and aerobics of the 80s.

Getting together
Joining a group fitness class has a number of advantages over many other methods of training. One of the most important advantages is the social nature of a class, as it is somewhat easier to suffer with a group of other people. Of course, pride also plays a role – if the person next to me can do it, well, so can I. It is therefore much easier to push your body a little bit further and gain fitness quicker. Working out in a group environment also allows participants to share their exercise experiences, which means that everyone does not have to make the same mistakes over and over.

The instructor
Many people imagine that fitness class instructors are little more than drill sergeants. However this is far from the truth. Although instructors have to keep everyone motivated and keep the energy levels up, their role extends well beyond that.

Demonstrating proper form for the exercises is vital if participants are to get the most out of the workout. The instructor also controls the pace of the workout, and can vary it depending on the level of the participants.

A somewhat more recent addition to the fitness scene, Pilates focuses on core strength and flexibility. As your core muscles (abdominals and lower back) control posture, breathing, and almost anything else we do, strengthening this muscle group can have a dramatic impact on many everyday complaints.

“The mentality of ‘working from within’ and building strength in the limbs after creating a solid core foundation has helped our clients reach and sustain their fitness goals,” says Colleen Brummer of Energy Pilates.

To the casual observer, Pilates might seem to be a quite complicated exercise system, but according to Brummer they present a variety of classes to suit everyone from absolute beginners to experience Pilates participants.

“We offer private, partner and small group training packages for all of our training programmes, whether it is Pilates based, general fitness/weight loss, sports conditioning or pre/post natal. Our group class schedule includes both matwork and reformer classes,” says Brummer

Depending on your needs, you can also choose to join training sessions from a regular group all the way to one-on-one training with an instructor.

“We limit our large class sizes to 10 people to still provide the best possible instruction to all of our participants so everyone leaves feeling like they have had the perfect Pilates workout,” according to Brummer.

Stretching and statics holds characterise this style of training. However, just because the movements are slow and smooth, don’t be deceived into thinking that the exercise will not burn calories and lift your heart rate. Holding a pose can be much more work than it may seem at first. However, yoga avoids impact, which can certainly help those not quite up to some of the more active styles of exercise. The stretching element also helps to counteract many of the posture problems caused by sitting at a desk all day, five days a week.

Based on infectious Latin beats and dancing moves, this is a fun, calorie burning workout. Created by accident when a trainer forgot his aerobics workout tape at home and had to improvise to what he had at hand – Latin music. The classes aim to add more fun to a workout, thereby getting people to come back again and not be scared off. However, the fun element does not limit the effectiveness of the training,

Kick some
Another popular style of group exercise class combines the stress-relieving aggression of martial arts and the calorie burning of aerobics.