Evolution of Group Fitness

Group Fitness Classes have been around for decades. But how much have they changed?

The other day, at lunch, my mother commented when Neil Diamond’s “Coming to America” came on the restaurant’s sound system, that the song always reminds her of a Jazzercise class she and my grandmother took in the early 90’s. I was immediately reminded of her (blue and teal?) spandex outfit with matching headband that would seem retro and fun today that were totally in-vogue for a Jazzercise class in the community center in 1992.

I hadn’t thought about my mother’s experiences in group fitness (aerobics was what we called it then – and it was 90% cardiovascular exercise) in years. You’d think because I’d spent so many years teaching group fitness and managing group fitness and prescribing group fitness to clients that I’d have considered her group experiences more often.

But I hadn’t. Not until Neil Diamond serenaded us via a Muzak system. And this made me curious. WHY? Why hadn’t I thought about her pristine white sneakers and scrunch socks? It dawned on me long after lunch had ended that the reason I hadn’t more often considered her group fitness experiences is because group fitness is 100% different today than it was when she was perfecting her side-pony.

Aerobics were classes of (mostly in-shape) women in brightly colored workout gear dancing to sped up version of popular songs. Grapevining back and forth in front of a mirror, or doing complicated steps over a raised platform (Denise Austin made Step Aerobics a phenomenon that should probably have resulted in more sprained ankles than it did).

But today’s group fitness classes are a mix of men and women of all body types at all stages of their personal fitness journeys working on all facets of their fitness, not just cardio. Classes like Mossa’s Group Power have introduced strength training to the world of group fitness. ┬áMossa describes their popular class as, “a results driven strength training workout utilizing an adjustable barbell, weight plates, and body weight.” And it’s no wonder the classes are popular, with science indicating that strength training can be just as, or more effective than cardiovascular exercise for individuals trying to lose weight and burn fat.

Tae Bo went from choreographed kickboxing that looked like a number from a Broadway musical about Bruce Lee to popular mixed-martial-arts formats like Mossa’s Group Fight. Jazzercise went from and endless loop of grapevines to a mix of hip-hop dance, Latin dance, ballroom dance and traditional steps in classes like Group Groove.

But it’s not just that group fitness evolved to be more inclusive and less “dancey,” it’s that group fitness became highly specialized in ways that used to be exclusive to personal training. Group Core will work on your core stability and strength, Group Active will give equal attention to the components of your fitness in what Mossa describes as “a simple and athletic program drawing from all four elements of fitness: cardio, strength, balance, and flexibility.”

And there’s more to love about group fitness than just the fact that modern group fitness is formatted and designed to be more inclusive and effective, there’s also tons of science to support the idea that group fitness creates social accountabilities can help you reach your goals faster!

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