When you hear the term “group fitness”, what images do you visualize. Did the 1980s video of Jane Fonda, leotards, leg warmers, and headbands come to mind? This stereotype is associated with an “aerobics” class, a trend that spurred a generation of Baby Boomers to move more than 20 years ago. It transformed the athletic footwear industry by introducing the first shoe line designed especially for women. Just as this industry has evolved, group fitness has evolved, not simply as a matter of semantics, but rather reflected the change of group classes from just being “dance based” and “aerobic” in nature to including other forms of exercise such as weight training.
The role and responsibility of the “group fitness” instructor has also changed. In the early years, the participants mirrored the “aerobics” instructor leading a series of dance and exercise moves to fast-paced music. Great energy and music still attract participants. However, instructing is no longer about performing, but about educating, motivating and communicating.
“Group fitness” instructors are now educated through nationally recognized certifying organizations such as AFAA (Aerobics and Fitness Association of America) or by obtaining formal science-related degrees such as in exercise science, physiology and kinesiology. Continuing education is also important for the “group fitness” instructor by bringing together the latest research and trends as they apply to the fitness industry. Instructors communicate more skillfully by offering guidance, positive feedback, and modification that emphasize safety and proper alignment.
The latest shift taking place for the “group fitness” instructor is the creation of terms such as “group fitness coaches” or “large group trainers.” This approach employs the same techniques used in individualized training, except it incorporates an “experience” that research has shown draws and keeps people in fitness classes excited as compared to one-on-one training. It is the science of using music to motivate and the group energy to build a community that keeps people feeling successful, part of a team, uplifted, and emotionally charged. It provides a break and pleasant diversion from daily obligations. This “experience” takes the participants to a place where they feel connected physically, emotionally and spiritually with themselves and those around them. Les Mills, the creators of programs such as BODYPUMP™, calls this effect “fitness magic.”
When done right, it’s something participants look forward to, talk about it, and feel a sense of belonging. This in turn creates consistency of the participants by allowing them to reap the benefits of exercise such as cardiovascular health, weight management, bone strength, cholesterol, blood pressure, sleep, anti-aging, stress, and job performance, according to the American Council on Exercise (2014). It’s also known that there are positive effects that exercise can have on mood. Psychologists have often suggested that participation in physical activities may lead to improvements in psychological states because it serves as a distraction from the daily grind. A report from the Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology (2011; 33 , 884–902) takes this common knowledge one step further, suggesting that exercise is associated with feelings of excitement and enthusiasm. According to the Pressman and colleagues (2009) study that examined the relationship between enjoyable leisure activities and measures of psychological and physical health, those participants that had a higher enjoyable leisure activities score were associated with better measures of psychosocial states and lower levels of depression and negative affect.
Once you find that group fitness coach or large group trainer that has fitness magic, they become vital to your fitness success. Here is what to look for: 1) They’re service oriented and want to make a difference in your life. 2) They have a history of a loyal following and are genuinely caring. 3) They are humble and don’t let their “celebrity” interfere with their teaching. 4) They’re more in tune with clients’ concerns and abilities. 5) They’re personable and more compassionate. 6) They adapt to a variety of clientele. 7) They are passionate about what they do. 8) They make group exercise classes magical!
At Stronger Fitness we aim to workout smarter, not harder, which is especially important to do if you already have an injury. When injured, the worst thing to do is do nothing! We offer classes in multiple programs under professional instruction and offer nutritional guidance. Come and visit us.