A little group training can go a long way

There are a number of good reasons to exercise with others.
Published December 3 2018
Updated January 7

Are you finding it difficult to motivate yourself to add more movement into your life? If you could use a little encouragement, you might try joining a group exercise class. There’s good reason that group training is one of the top 10 fitness trends. Enjoying the togetherness that comes from doing a workout with others can help ramp up motivation and improve performance. But that’s just one advantage. A group exercise class is a great place to meet people who share the same interest in fitness. Also, because classes draw different levels of participants, you won’t have to worry if you are a beginner. Another perk of working out with a group is you’re more likely to actually work out. While it’s easy to skip an exercise session when you are working out alone, research indicates you are less likely to skip a workout when you are working with your exercise buddies. Another plus: You don’t have to plan — or think about what exercises you should be doing and whether you’re doing them correctly. Certified instructors will do all that for you, and they will explain the benefits of the exercises and show you how the exercises can be modified.

Fitness research tells us that 50 percent of people who start an exercise program will drop out within five months. Seems many people feel exercise is too much of a chore. You can avoid that feeling when you work out in a fun and happy environment. You know what they say: “Time flies when you’re having fun.”

Anatomy of a group exercise class

The instructor will take you through a complete program, which would include a dynamic warmup, a balanced workout and a cool-down. Wondering what a dynamic warmup is? It is at least five minutes of stretching with mild movement, designed to increase body temperature and increase your range of motion, preparing you for the main event. A few examples would be marching in place with arm movements, knee lifts, hamstring curls, leg swings and step touches with arm swings. Dynamic stretching is preferred over the static stretch-and-hold stretch for the warmup.

Classes are available in many different formats. If you are particularly interested in cardiovascular improvement or weight loss, you could select aerobic-based exercise classes such as dance aerobics, spinning or Zumba. There are a variety of strength training classes available for people who want to improve muscle strength and endurance, and for flexibility training you could take a stretching or yoga class. People 65 and older can join SilverSneakers, a free fitness program that’s sponsored by some insurance plans and found in many gyms and fitness centers. Classes are designed for all levels of fitness and often use a chair for seated exercises and standing support.

Check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program. Sally Anderson is happy to hear from readers but can’t respond to individual inquiries. Contact her at [email protected]

Your move | Demonstrated by Maja Hodzic and John Moran

Pushup with a handshake: Targets the core, chest, shoulders and triceps.

Partners face each other on the floor, beginning with long arms in a pushup position, hands under shoulders and elbows over wrists.

Balancing on the balls of the feet, place your feet hip width apart.

Your buttocks should be in alignment with your chest.

Perform a pushup.

When lifted into the top position of the pushup, shake opposite hands.

Return your hands to the floor and lower to near floor.

Alternate the handshake with each lift, repeating four or five times.

Tip: Beginners may perform the move with bent knees on the floor.

Partners with reverse lunge: Targets the buttocks, thighs and calves.

Partners stand about arm’s length away from each other.

Contract your abdominals.

Hold your right arms with your elbows bent and bend your left leg back into a lunge. Your back heel will be off the floor and your back should be straight.

Slowly return to a standing position.

Repeat eight to 10 times then change sides and repeat the pattern.

Tip: To add a balance challenge, return your bent leg into a knee lift.

Partner tree pose: Creates balance and stability while opening the hips and strengthening the ankles.

Partners stand side by side, about 1 to 2 feet apart.

Extend your inside arm straight up with palms of your hands touching.

Depending on the size of the partners, you may adjust the hand placement.

Bend your outside leg and place your heel on your upper thigh.

Extend your free arm to the side, shoulder height.

Focus on a spot in front of you to help with balance.

Standing tall with your abdominals contracted, remain standing for six to eight breaths.

Slowly lower your leg to the floor.

Switch places and repeat on the other side.

Tips: Beginners can place their heel between their ankle and knee. Never place your heel on your knee joint.