Group exercise offers benefits

Published 7:48 pm Saturday, January 22, 2011

Balancing act: Suffolk Family YMCA Health and Wellness Director Amelia Chung demonstrates a strength and balance move used in group exercise classes at the Y. Many group classes, including Zumba and yoga, are growing in popularity.

Zumba is one of the newest and trendiest group exercise routines offered by many of the gyms serving the Suffolk area, but it’s only one of many exercise routines that has found its way into the hearts of gym patrons.

The Suffolk Family YMCA group exercise classes serve thousands of patrons each month. Yoga, Zumba, “Boot Camp” and 20/20/20 attract the largest number of participants each month, workers there said.

At OneLife Fitness Center at Chesapeake Square, 250 patrons a month attend group exercise classes such as Zumba, “Body Pump,” spinning, and “Step Jams,” said Amy Tully, assistant general manager of the Chesapeake Square location.

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“Yoga packs out the group exercise room,” Health and Wellness Director Amelia Chung of the Suffolk Family YMCA said.

Chung said yoga is not the most trendy, but it does draw the most consistent numbers of people. Yoga requires endurance, strength and the ability to control your breathing. Chung explains of the most popular group exercise classes, yoga can be the most relaxing.

Zumba, which incorporates Latin rhythms and dance moves into a cardio routine, is the second most popular class offered at the Suffolk Family YMCA. Gyms all over Suffolk, including Anytime Fitness, GODHAP 4 Fitness, the YMCA and OneLife Fitness offer Zumba.

As Chung described it, “Zumba is exercise in disguise.”

In Chung’s 13 years as training instructor, she said, Zumba is the only class she has taught that is extremely challenging, extremely sweaty and will leave participants with a smile. Chung said that patrons put more effort into doing Zumba that she has ever seen anyone put into lifting weights.

“Once you start doing it, it is addictive. The benefit is amazing,” said Chung.

Zumba is popular because it works the biceps, chest and legs all while the participant is having fun, explained Chung.

“Zumba is one of the best ways to loose weight,” she said.

She knows of students who have lost 800-900 calories in an hour of Zumba.

“Anything is as effective as the effort that you put into it,” she explained.

And Chung’s students put the most effort into Zumba.

Boot Camp is another popular group fitness class offered at the Suffolk Family YMCA. “People like Boot Camp because it is a class you can go into and get pushed past your limits,” Chung said.

Boot Camp — and every other group exercise class offered at the YMCA — are multilevel classes, so the participant decides the impact and intensity of their routine. During Boot Camp, stations are set up with low, medium and high intensity activities, so patrons can choose which level they want for each activity. The variety of levels makes the class appropriate for beginners and experienced participants.

The 20/20/20 class is new to the Suffolk Family YMCA schedule, but it is very popular. It combines 20 minutes of stretching, 20 minutes of strength training and 20 minutes of cardio. The segments can be intermingled at the discretion of the individual trainer.

Chung believes 20/20/20 is so popular because most people don’t stretch the way that they should, and this incorporates stretching into every routine.

The most popular classes at OneLife Fitness are Zumba and Step Jams — essentially a step class put to music.

“It’s fun as opposed to a chore,” said Tully. “A lot of people here like to dance.”

Body Pump is also popular. Body Pump is a full-body strength program in which participants do 100 repetitions per body part. This program works the legs, abs, arms, shoulders and back, Tully explains.

Spinning or cycling is another popular group exercise class at OneLife Fitness. Spinning is a great cardio activity.

Tully explained that strength training and cardio are important to any fitness routine. Group exercise can offer options for strength training and cardio to participants.

And group exercise programs give people an outlet for physical activity and also a way to build relationships.

“People like to feel like part of something,” said Tully.

Group exercise programs offer not only options for becoming physically fit, but they can also be a good way to make friends.