Whether it’s aquafit, zumba or tai chi, can taking fitness classes keep you healthier for longer?
Just 15 minutes of exercise a day will help us keep fit and healthy – and more is better. However, you need to do the exercise regularly.
If you don’t exercise, then you increase your chances of ill health. The World Health Organisation reports that physical inactivity is the fourth leading risk factor for death across the world.
Can’t we just do exercise ourselves?
Yes, of course. If you have the motivation and self discipline to exercise regularly on your own (and know when not to overdo it) then this is a cheap and convenient option.
However, exercise and fitness classes do have some advantages, compared with a DIY approach:
- A professional instructor can help ensure you exercise safely, for instance warming up before the more strenuous part of the exercise, to reduce the risk of strain or injury.
- Through classes you can gain access to a range of different types of exercise (e.g. aerobic, resistance/strength and flexibility), each with their own health benefits.
- The social element, exercising with other people, has possible health benefits in its own right.
- Most classes take place indoors (in adult education centres, sports and leisure centres, church halls, schools or YMCAs) so can take place all year round, whatever the weather.
That’s probably why fitness and exercise programmes offered in community settings increase physical activity levels and improve physical fitness
What is the best exercise for me?
Here is a selection from the many types of class available:
- Dancing – is an enjoyable way of exercising, which combines physical activity, mental activity (learning the different dance moves) and social activity – all potentially good for health. One study also found that that dancing was especially valuable for preventing Alzheimer's. There's a wide range of dance options available, including belly dancing, ballroom, Bollywood, flamenco, hip hop, line dancing, tap and Zumba - so hopefully something whatever your age or taste.
- Tai chi – research suggests that this gentle chinese martial art improves balance, bone health and co-ordination; is good for your immune system and your heart and lung fitness; helps prevent falls in older people; and helps reduce anxiety and depression - although more good quality research is needed to confirm some of these findings. A study published in 2014 has shown that it also appears to help improve cognitive function.
- Yoga: appears to reduce the risk of heart disease, while also helping improve flexibility, strength, posture and coordination. The University of Maryland Medical Center advises that sustained stress can result in an increased risk of illness, whereas exercise and yoga help reduce stress.
- Swimming: water based exercise is good for almost everyone. It is not only a good aerobic exercise. As the water supports 90% of the body’s weight it is a safe environment for those with illnesses, disabilities and injuries and also means you can exercise longer without increased effort or joint or muscle pain. It has been shown to have extensive physical and mental health benefits. You can join swim classes such aquafit, aquajogging and aquazumba or just adult swim classes.
Other options include aerobics, badminton, bootcamp, boxercise, circuit training, keep fit, legs bums and tums, nordic walking, pilates, tennis and trampolining.
Fitnesses classes have an added bonus. They give you the chance to meet new people and socialise. Research has shown social interaction, especially after retirement and into later age has great benefits for our mental and physical well being.
Joining exercise and fitness classes has many advantages:
Improved long term health - regular physical activity can reduce the risk of developing serious illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes and some cancers.
The underrrated wonder drug. That’s how the chief medical officer for Macmillan Cancer Support has described physical exercise. It can help if you have a range of medical conditions, from cancer and diabetes to rheumatoid arthritis and Parkinson’s.
Regular social interaction –research has shown a strong correlation between social interaction and health and well being, especially among older adults.
Reviewed July 2017, next review date July 2020