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Getting into the Bandwagon

"Popularity of group exercise"
By: James BarramedaGetting into the Bandwagon

In the pursuit of physical fitness, one of the biggest hurdles that can prevent you from achieving your goals is the lack of motivation. It can be brought about by boredom (especially if you have been doing the same routine for quite some time), disappointment (if you are not meeting your expectations in weight loss or weight training), or lack of encouragement from your support group.

If you have been “stuck in a rut” with your exercise program, perhaps it’s time to change the way you see exercise. Instead of viewing it as a chore, try to see exercise as enjoyable and exciting. Group exercise can be just that. It can be an exercise routine, a sport, or set of activities performed by more than one person. It is normally a class that is led by an instructor. Because of its social nature, studies around the world have shown that there are more benefits in exercising in groups rather than in solitude.

So what are the different benefits that make group exercise a better alternative to traditional programs?

  • You get more motivated to workout. It also makes an individual more driven to attend each session and perform well because of the group dynamic called competition. It is actually a great way of tricking your body to do things better.
  • Apart from the group spirit, having a leader or instructor to facilitate each course of the class also brings another advantage that you may not get from working out alone.

Group exercise has become increasingly popular in the fitness industry over the last decade alone. The trend of social exercise classes has reached the Philippines many years back, with the introduction of gym-based dance-cardio classes like Zumba, hip-hop, and belly dancing.

If you are interested in trying group exercise, go to the nearest gym or health club and inquire how much membership costs (usually, you have to be a member of their fitness club before you can join their group classes). Gym membership fees can go from P500 to P2,500 per month. For some establishments, they offer a per-session rate from as low as P20 to P200.

  • Prepare a few sets of your regular sports to wear (i.e. cotton shirt, comfortable shorts, socks, and rubber shoes)
  • Most gyms already provide free use of special equipment such as steppers, free weights, yoga mats, and exercise balls as part of your monthly fee.
  • Ask around, maybe your office mates or classmates are already attending one.
  • Try out each class—many gyms allow a free session just for you to get a feel of the class before formally signing up.

High impact classes

Also called “High-Cardio,” high-impact classes involve intense workouts where both feet leave the floor during some moments of the exercise.

According to the American Council on Exercise, high-impact classes improve not just your heart health but also bone density because its goal is to tax both the musculoskeletal and cardiovascular systems through continuous intense movements like stomping, punching, and jumping. 

There are different styles of high-impact classes that emphasize on a set of movements or focus on certain areas of the body. “Cardio boot camp,” jump rope classes, jazz or modern dancing classes, for example, highlight the lower body while choreography or boxing classes emphasize on movements that target the upper body. These classes can all be found at a membership gym or fitness club and there are usually several sessions offered each day.

To achieve your fitness goals, attend at least three 60-minute classes every week. The American Council on Exercise recommends that high-impact classes should be conducted at a pace below 155 beats per minute so as to minimize the risk of injury.

Low-impact classes

Low-impact workouts involve exercises that keep at least one foot on the floor at all times. As the name suggests, this class is more joint-friendly, which makes it appealing even to those who have previous joint injuries or who are in their late adult years. “Low-impact” doesn’t mean it is less intense than high-impact exercise. You can still come out sweating like a pig with every session because of the level of difficulty that low-impact exercises can give you.

  • Yoga and Pilates—both forms of discipline adhere to proper breathing, the fluidity of movements, and holding of poses. Some poses are even so advanced that it takes years of practice before a person can achieve it without getting injured!
  • Zumba, Latino Funk, Salsa, Mambo, Bollywood, etc.conducted without too much jumping or stomping. Take note that dance classes can become high-impact depending on the instructor’s choice of dance movements, so make sure you ask first before signing up.
  • Indoor cycling has been one of the most popular morning cardio workouts. It is normally shorter than other exercise classes (about 45 minutes per class instead of the 60-minute cardio classes).
  • Water training (also known as “aquatic training”) is great for those who have problems with their joints, those who recently had an injury or the elderly. It is simply working out in a swimming pool either standing up with feet touching the pool floor (also known as “shallow-water” training) or while floating vertically (also known as “deep-water” training) with the help of a special flotation belt.

Mixed-impact classes

It is highly recommended by fitness gurus because of the variation of activities. Sustained, repetitive exercises may be great at first but it can reach a point where your body gets used to the same intensity and becomes unresponsive to the exercise. Confusing your system with mixed-impact classes (like low-impact cardio dancing today and high-impact boxing tomorrow) can keep your muscles receptive to each workout, thus bringing better results.

  • Boxing classes can also be low-impact if you perform the drills without full power and speed.
  • Step training is one of the most famous cardio classes offered by gyms worldwide. It involves stepping and sometimes hopping, jumping, and leaping from a 4- to 10-inch platform. This can be a high-impact or low-impact exercise so check out if the class is offering basic step (which most likely is low-impact) or advance step (lots of varied choreography and high-impact movements). Step training is challenging especially for the legs and buttocks and varies in intensity. You may hear step classes that are called “Boot Camp Step,” “Cardio Step,” or “Step Dance,” but you better interview the instructor before signing up to know what you are getting into.

If you decide to try out mixed-impact classes, do about four to six 60-minute sessions a week. This should improve your current fitness level significantly.

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