Take a lesson from the kids: Group exercise is fun. On any warm day, visit a popular local park, and you’re bound to see kids riding bikes, playing games and having fun exercising together. Exercising with others is usually more enjoyable than exercising alone, and the benefits don’t end there. Be sure to consult your doctor to determine your ideal exercises.
“I joined a yoga class at the local parks and recreation district in my community, and it’s turned out to be a good thing for me,” says Sandra Giedeman. “I have mild osteoarthritis and the stretching has done wonders for my lower back. It’s been nice to get to know a few of the other women. We all have our strengths and weaknesses: Some of us are fabulous at the balance poses, and some are much more flexible. There’s no pressure and we do what we can. There’s a nice feeling about doing it with a group and with the guidance of an experienced yoga instructor and some soothing new age music. I feel invigorated when I leave class.”
Sandra’s experience sums up many of the benefits of group exercise, which include:
- Committing to a regular schedule: By signing up for a class, you are setting aside that time to exercise. That often means you’ll be more likely to stick with it than if you planned to try to fit in exercise at home “when you have time.” The cost of signing up, and the fact that your classmates plan to see you, can also add to your commitment.
- Social support and new friendships: Everyone who signs up for a particular class has something in common. Learning, going through challenges, and having fun together can create friendships and camaraderie.
- Guidance: Of course, signing up for a class means you’ll receive guidance and instruction from the teacher, who can help you progress and stay safe while exercising. “I take an occasional yoga class,” says Michelle Demers. “I try doing some of the asanas at home, but it’s only when I’m in a class that I learn more and can refine the postures.” The benefits of instruction apply to any type of exercise. The teacher can also help push you when you’re ready for a challenge.
- Boredom buster: There are all types of group exercise classes available from Zumba, water aerobics, strength training, spinning, and everything in between. Within each class, the routine and music will vary every session, staving off any boredom.
If you’re ready to give group exercise a try (and your doctor has cleared you physically), set out to find a class that’s right for you. Most gyms offer many types of group classes. Ask about day or week passes so you can check them out before making a long-term commitment. Local community, parks and recreation, and adult education centers may also offer a variety of classes at reasonable prices; check the offerings, and if classes are currently in session, see if you can observe one or talk to the teacher to determine if it’s a good fit for you.
Don’t be afraid to try something new – classmates and teachers will be there to support you, and you may be surprised at how much fun you have.