Whether you are an exercise junky or looking for your first fitness class, before you set foot before the instructor, you need to know what you are getting into and if you can handle it. This is because choosing a group exercise class can seem overwhelming. There are many different class formats that have developed and evolved recently. Additionally, class offerings vary among fitness facilities. Most classes fall into one of the following four categories: cardiorespiratory, strength, mind/body, or specialty. Regardless of the type, all exercise classes are designed to be fun and challenging in a positive social environment.
Cardio classes generally focus on getting the heart rate up. They usually start with a light aerobic warm-up and some stretching before they progress into moderate- or high-intensity exercise for the majority of the class. There are six popular types of cardio which include:
- Low Intensity, Long Duration: These classes are the least demanding form of aerobic training. They are slow, easy, and continuous. You should be able to converse comfortably while doing it. These types of classes are good for people just getting started with cardio work. They are good for fat loss, especially in obese people.
- Medium Intensity, Medium Duration: These classes are a bit more difficult and therefore, it cannot be done for as long. The aerobic portion usually lasts between 20 to 40 minutes. They are the next step up from the low-intensity work and can be used for fat loss and for increasing aerobic capacity. When you take one of these classes, you will experience heavy breathing. However, you will not be so out of breath that you will need to stop
- High Intensity, Short Duration: This is the most demanding form of training. It is done for between 5 to 20 minutes, depending on fitness level and intensity.
- Aerobic Interval Training: Classes do not have to be all one level. The instructor can vary it so that you are doing a period of moderate to high-intensity aerobic work, which alternates with a period of rest that includes low-intensity work. This is repeated multiple times. The intervals and intensities can be changed based on your fitness level. The key is variation while not working so hard that you must stop completely.
- Anaerobic Interval Training: This type of training involves going hard for short periods of time then resting for equal or longer periods of time. They are not beginners as you could reach your maximum heart rate.
- Circuit training: This is basically aerobic weight training. Stations are set up with a variety of exercises that work the entire body. Light weights are used and you will do each exercise continuously for a specified time interval. The advantage of this is that you are working the entire body, rather than just your legs.
These classes can be further described as beginner, intermediate or advanced. If a class does not designate a level, intermediate is assumed. Classes that fall into this category include step and hi-lo floor aerobics, as well as kickboxing classes and indoor cycling.