Starting an exercise routine can be intimidating, especially with so many different types of workouts to choose from. Here’s what you can expect from each of the most popular types of fitness classes, the benefits, and the studios where you can try each one.
What it is: You don’t have to be a marathon runner to get the most out of a treadmill-based fitness class. Whether you prefer to stroll, sprint, or somewhere in between, your coach will guide you through hills and intervals (and in many classes, a little floor and weight-based work as well). You’re in control of the speed and incline of your own treadmill, so you’ll always set your own pace.
What are the benefits: There’s a reason your gym teachers made you run laps back in school. Running is a great workout, and treadmill-based classes allow you to reap all the benefits of running without facing the elements.
Where to take the class: STRIDE is the leading treadmill-based workout in the country. Their studios feature the top-of-the-line Woodway treadmills, which are made to mimic the feel of outdoor running. That means less impact on your joints and fewer injuries. Just ask the pro sports teams and physical therapists who opt for Woodways.
What it is: No boats here, not even water (unless you count the water bottle you brought to class). Rowing classes make use of rowers, or rowing machines, to deliver a full-body workout that’s ultra-accessible for all fitness levels.
What are the benefits: Rowing engages 86% of your body’s muscles, making it an excellent full-body workout with both aerobic and strength-building benefits.
Where to take the class: Row House is the premier indoor rowing studio, offering six different types of rowing classes to fit your goals. Expect plenty of good music and a good amount of rowing intervals mixed in with floor-based strength exercises.
What it is: Barre is a low-impact workout inspired by and drawing upon the movements of ballet. Barre classes focus on small movements (sometimes only an inch or two) that strengthen and tone your full body. Expect high repetitions with light weights and movements that make you feel like a ballerina.
What are the benefits: Much like ballet, barre tones your muscles, improves your posture and increases your flexibility. If you’re brand new to working with weights, barre is a great place to start.
Where to take the class: Pure Barre is the largest barre brand with almost 600 studios nationwide. You’re almost guaranteed to have one in your area.
What it is: Indoor cycling classes (sometimes called spin classes) are held on the stationary bike. Clip your cycling shoes into the pedals and ride through hills of your own making by adjusting the resistance. You’ll move in and out of the saddle (aka you won’t always be sitting on that bike seat) through class, chasing an invisible finish line as you pedal along to the beat of the music!
What are the benefits: Cycling is a low-impact exercise with enormous cardiovascular benefits. A stationary bike is a versatile tool, too —keep your resistance low and increase your speed or increase your resistance and build endurance and lower body strength.
Where to take the class: Cyclebar offers an accessible boutique cycling experience for cyclists of all levels. Notably, they offer “unplugged” classes for those who need a break from screens and “CycleStats” driven classes that add a little competition to your ride.
What it is: Pilates is a strength-based class primarily using a piece of equipment called the reformer, an apparatus utilizing spring tension and body weight. It may look complicated at a glance, but with intuitive movements and instructor guidance, you’ll be a reformer pro in no time. Also expect to utilize foam rolling, TRX®, EXO-chair, and other equipment designed to build strength, mobility, and stability—with so much variety, your Pilates practice will never get boring.
What are the benefits: A regular Pilates practice will improve flexibility, increase your range of motion, and build strength—especially core strength.
Where to take the class: Club Pilates is the largest Pilates brand in the world with over 600 locations worldwide. With top-of-the-line equipment and plenty of one-on-one attention, it’s the best location for both Pilates newbies and long-time fans.
What it is: You’re probably familiar with the mind-body practice of yoga, but the variations are what makes yoga such an excellent option for everyone, regardless of age, fitness level, or goal. Try restorative yoga to release tension, yoga sculpt to build strength, or hot yoga for a sweat-drenched challenge.
What are the benefits: Yoga has dozens of proven mental health benefits, but the physical benefits are just as valuable. Whether you're looking for strength, agility, or flexibility and balance, there’s a yoga class for you.
Where to take the class: YogaSix offers a wide variety of yoga classes, all within one studio. This is the perfect studio for those looking to try a little bit of everything when it comes to yoga.
What it is: Boxing has grown rapidly in popularity on the fitness scene. Maybe it’s the catharsis of throwing a punch at a heavy bag or the total-body results from interval training. Probably a little bit of both. Most boxing classes incorporate strength and conditioning alongside
What are the benefits: Boxing is a hard-core cardio workout, but your strength and coordination will improve as well. Not to be discounted: the incredible stress relief.
Where to take the class: Rumble Boxing offers the most well-rounded boxing workout, combining boxing drills with intense strength training. Since their classes are based on six punches, it’s simple enough for beginners but scalable for Rocky-level boxers.
What it is: Dance fitness classes have a long and storied history, but don’t expect your grandmother’s jazzercise the next time you step into the studio. Today’s dance fitness classes combine strength training with high-energy choreography for a strength-building, heart-pumping workout. (And don’t worry if you have two left feet—your instructor will break the moves down for you.)
What are the benefits: Not a huge fitness person? Need to trick yourself into working out? Dance fitness classes feel less like a workout and more like a party, all while building strength, endurance, and a new set of moves.
Where to take the class: AKT alternates between choreographed dance sections and short strength intervals, putting your muscle and cardio endurance to the test.
What it is: If you’re interested in lifting heavier weights, classes are a great way to master your form without risking injury. Weight training classes can be exclusively strength-focused or incorporate HIIT, circuits, and functional movements. Whatever the class, expect progressive training that challenges you to lift heavier or increase reps.
What are the benefits: Build strength, and muscular endurance, and challenge yourself to move heavier weights. Weight training classes are also a great option for a less expensive alternative to personal training.
Where to take the class: BFT is a global weight training program that’s quickly taking off in the states. Get a well-rounded workout experience with a huge variety of classes geared toward different goals.
What it is: Stretching is an often neglected but very important part of a well-rounded fitness routine, and often, the quick cool down at the end of an intense workout is not nearly enough for maintaining mobility and flexibility. Expect both static and dynamic stretching and props that help you achieve a deeper, more effective scratch.
What are the benefits: Balance your body, reduce tightness and pain, prevent injury, increase flexibility and mobility…the list goes on and on. If you think you might benefit from stretching, you’re right.
Where to take the class: StretchLab offers both one-on-one and group stretching classes led by trained reflexologists.
Where should I start?
Try a little bit of everything. By sampling a variety of fitness classes, you’ll find the workouts, studios, and instructors that motivate you best. An XPASS subscription is a great place to start. One subscription lets you book fitness classes without limiting you to a single type of exercise—the perfect way to add some variety to your workout routine.