Looking to try a different way to keep fit, but don't know your Gyrotonic from your Tai Chi? We lead you through some of the most popular exercise classes.
Aerobic and step classes
PRO: Great for beginners and the more advanced
CON: Watch out for muscle strain. Warm up and down properly
Aerobics classes, which are generally a high or low-impact workout to set music, allow you to exercise at your own level to improve your cardiovascular fitness and flexibility.
Step classes burn calories quickly and help to tone the lower part of your body as you go up and down the step in front of you. The higher you have the step, the harder it is.
Aqua aerobics is the same as aerobics, albeit in the shallow end of the pool. As your body weight is supported by the water, the impact is reduced, so it’s ideal for those with joint problems, exercise newcomers or those who are overweight.
PRO: Increases flexibility, circulation and balance
CON: Not for those with chronic injuries and no subsitiute for general cardiovascular exercise
Founded by Joseph Pilates in 1880 as a way to strengthen his body after a childhood beset by illness, Pilates is a form of strength and flexibility training open to anyone, no matter how fit they are.
Helping to promote physical and mental wellbeing it’s also a huge aid for physical awareness, improving posture, circulation and balance.
By training the core abdominal and back muscles, it helps to stabilise your torso and allows your entire body to move freely.
For people who are more sedentary than most, Pilates is a gentle, non-impact exercise.
PRO: Great for all-round fitness, confidence and conditioning
CON: The more combative classes are not suitable for everyone
Don’t assume that martial arts classes are only for budding Bruce Lees: they have a wide range of benefits such as improved muscle benefits such as improved muscle toning, better flexibility and co-ordination.
Karate involves a variety of techniques, but some may be a little extreme, as it often demands physical contact.
The same goes for other martial arts such as Aikido or Tae Kwon Do, although they’re great ways to keep fit and classes often boast a great communal spirit.
Many modern gyms feature boxercise or kick-boxing classes, which are a step down from the hard-core martial arts and are a good potential stepping stone.
Tai Chi is a low-intensity Chinese martial art and is excellent for improving strength, balance and postural control. It has even been shown to help prevent falls.
PRO: A holistic workout, it benefits both your body and mind
CON: To get maximum benefits you’ll need to be dedicated
Most yoga styles are rooted in Hatha yoga, which focuses on developing control through different poses.
Viniyoga (also known as vinyasa) is probably the most gentle form of yoga, focusing on co-ordinating breathing with movement. Increasingly used for injury rehabilitation, it’s an excellent choice for beginners. A similarly gentle choice is Kundalini yoga.
For those after a more rigorous workout there’s always Bikram yoga, in which the room is heated to anything between 85°F and 100°F. Be warned though, it’s hard work.
The same goes for Ashtanga yoga, which offers a fast-paced series of sequential poses. Physically demanding, it builds strength, flexibility and stamina as you move from one posture to another in a continual flow, linking the movements to your breathing.
PRO: Excellent for injury rehab and those with back pain
CON: Classes can be costly and hard to find
A favourite of Madonna and Gwyneth Paltrow, Gyrotonic is a cross between swimming, ballet, gymnastics, Pilates and yoga.
The Gyrotonic Expansion system uses rotating discs and weighted pulleys to create variable resistance via ropes and straps.
The machines work the muscles and ligaments in circular fluid movements and help to stretch and strengthen the muscles.
Gyrotonic originated as a form of rehabilitation and the low-impact rhythmic movements can be beneficial for those with arthritis, back pain or those recovering from an injury.
Weights & toning classes
PRO: There’s a class to suit anyone and everyone
CON: Make sure you choose the right weight level for you.
Free weights help to improve bone building, lowering the risk of osteoporosis and arthritis, and weights classes build strength and stamina at the same time.
Toning classes can come under a variety of names, including body pump and body sculpt. Some concentrate on specific areas of the body such as the legs, bottom and stomach.
There are also stability classes using fitness balls (which look like giant beach balls). Don’t be put off: they’re used to strengthen the muscles that maintain good posture – and they work surprisingly well.