Exercise Classes: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

Exercise classes are a vastly popular destination for people wanting to exercise. There are literally hundreds of classes available at various gyms up and down the country, each boasting a different name captured from the ludicrously-named-exercise-classes tombola machine, but as popular as they are, are these widespread forms of exercise all they’re cut out to be? 

The Good

People Are Moving After All

As of last year, four out of ten people in the UK were overweight. That’s not ideal. If an exercise class is going to reduce people’s sedentary lifestyles by even just a couple of hours every week and get them up and away from their desks, then exercise classes as a form of physical activity shouldn’t be totally shunned.

That Community Feeling

One of the number one factors that get people to adhere to exercise programmes is the sense of belonging to a group, all of comparable ability and similar motivation for being there. If Sally knows that friends Melissa and Susan are raring to go for their class at 9am and for their weekly coffee afterwards, she’ll be more likely to get up and attend.

Belonging to a committed group of similar character and competency, will increase adherence and commitment to exercising, especially if they know they’re not on their own when it comes to struggling with their exercise and fitness difficulties.

Some Classes Require A Group Setting

Classes such as yoga, spinning and Pilates would probably only function correctly in a group setting due to the nature of the exercise.  The equipment, or lack of, means a smaller, or individual based environment would largely be ineffectual for carrying out these particular forms of exercise. 

The Bad

Sweaty ≠ Results

Exercise classes will get you hot, sweaty and out of breath. Whilst this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it definitely doesn’t equate to a successful workout.

Anyone can get hot and sweaty from jumping around completing burpees, sit ups and punching the air for ten minutes, but it probably won’t have made you better, stronger or even closer to your end goals. Sometimes the quality of your session is far more crucial than the quantity of exercise within a session or even the end feeling of a workout.

 The Same Exercises For Everyone?

Classes will often involve everyone performing the same exercises for the same time with the same number of sets and reps. This apparent lack of individuality could be a real limitation to people’s chances of succeeding with their fitness aspirations.

Most classes don’t take into account that certain people aren’t appropriately prepped to squat with a bar on their back, or complete particular movements or even lift certain weights. Taking the time to learn what exercises could be best for your body shape or movement limitations could be the difference between making rapid progress or plateauing at the same standard for weeks and months.  

Star Jumps Just Don’t Cut It Anymore

Unfortunately the warm up you completed in your high school PE class when you were twelve doesn’t quite cut it anymore. Some classes don’t even provide a warm up and tell their participants to make sure they’re ready before the class has even started!

Jogging around a hall, performing some quick static stretches and star jumps probably isn’t the best way to prime yourself for an intense burst of exercise. Grooving movement patterns and taking the body through appropriate mobility and activation techniques would be ideal, but are almost impossible to perform in an exercise class setting.

The Ugly

Those 10 Kilogram Bars Aren’t Going To Get You Far

Advertising classes as workouts that are going to ‘tone’ and ‘sculpt’ your muscles is a huge problem. Despite being physiologically impossible from the outset, lifting and aimlessly throwing around lighter weights is definitely not the best way of acquiring the physique you desire.

Performing these type of workouts allows you to soon descend into a state of glorified aerobics, which while certainly isn’t necessarily a bad thing, won’t allow you to build muscle and lose body fat in the way you would like.

You Were Lifting That Six Months Ago?

20 people to a room, the absence of essential equipment and most importantly a lack of progression over time means your body rarely needs to adapt.  Without adaptation, you will never need to get stronger, fitter or challenge yourself.

Completing the same exercises, with the same weights, sets, reps and intensity that you were six months ago, will lead your body to become efficient at what it’s being told to do. For your body shape to change, you essentially need to become inefficient at what you’re giving it.

Sure, these classes will give you results at first, but you’ll soon start to plateau as your body will require the need to progress in order to keep on developing.

That’s Not A Squat –

Just a quick peer through the window of the exercise class room could give any exercise enthusiast the shudders, as on view at any one time could be 20 different versions of one exercise, completed at varying speeds and levels of awkwardness.

Not everyone is going to be able to perform every movement with perfect form, even in a normal gym setting, but the lack of attention to technique in a class environment is worrying. Movements and exercises take time to learn and quarter-squatting or barely lifting the bar overhead is not only a sure-fire way to ruin the benefits of the exercise, but also a guaranteed way to provoke an injury.

Often people will get stuck at the back of the class, struggling to keep up, eventually getting lost with what’s actually meant to be happening and miss out on the benefits of half of the session. 

Concluding Thoughts

Whilst there are some clear benefits to moving around and getting people to reduce their sedentary lifestyles through an exercise class setting, if you’re willing to step foot into the gym environment and invest time in your health, it would be advisable to devote a little bit of your mental acuity into participating in something that may be far more advantageous, whether it be for health or body composition based goals.

If you’ve been going to the same classes for weeks or months and your body shape or health metrics haven’t noticeably changed, it’s time to devote some time learning about what it takes to get you to your end goal more effectively and efficiently. 

 

 

 

 

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