Fitness classes are the perfect way to keep your workout fun, challenging and effective while adding a social element that keeps you coming back for more. And these days, there are more options than ever—from dancing to trampolining, Pilates to kickboxing, water aerobics to strength circuits and more—to pick from. Most gym schedules offer enough variety to cater to all interests and fitness levels. But if you find yourself craving something new and perhaps a bit less common than the typical fitness fare, these out-of-the-box classes might be worth seeking out.
A combination of yoga and acrobatics, this practice allows you to explore asanas from a supportive “hammock” (a strong loop of material that hangs from the ceiling). You’ll experience less joint compression during inversions like handstand and a greater range of motion during hip-opening poses like half pigeon, thanks to the hammock’s stretchiness. You don’t need to be a gymnast: Despite its tricky look, almost anyone can master aerial yoga with some practice. Improving your strength and flexibility while suspended challenges your mind and body in new ways—and it can finally give your Superman pose the air time it deserves.
You may have tried several dance fitness classes, but Capoeira takes on a whole new groove. This Afro-Brazilian art form blends dance, martial arts and acrobatic movements; be prepared to try complex moves with high kicks, punches and non-stop moving and shaking. With its unique combination of practices, Capoeira helps improve cardiovascular health, strength, flexibility and even confidence. And because it’s an aerobic workout that can burn up to 800 calories per session, it can also help you lose weight. Its variety of movements gives your joints more of a break than they might get with more repetitive exercises.
Gravity classes use The Gravity Training System (GTS)—an inclined bench with a surface that slides up and down. The bench and its attached cables and pulleys allow you to exercise against and with the forces of gravity. As your instructor takes you through a series of moves, you can customize your workout by adjusting the incline and your own body positioning to make things more comfortable or challenging. Gravity is a total-body workout that improves muscular strength and endurance, while enhancing core stability and range of motion. Add-on accessories can help you perform additional moves. Be prepared to sweat!
Remember fighting to keep your hula hoop up as a kid? That fun-spirited determination is the core of this fitness class, which uses hoops inspired by the classic toy. Moving to the music and your instructor’s choreography, you wiggle your waist just like you did in the old days—only this time, the hoop that’s spinning around you is larger (37 to 45 inches) and heavier (one to four pounds), so you are forced to work a bit harder to maintain control and burn more calories. The American Council on Exercise found that this total-body workout can burn up to 600 calories per hour while improving flexibility and balance, and strengthening muscles in your back, abs, arms and legs. Some gyms even include hooping in their Pilates and yoga classes. Let’s hear it for a little nostalgia!
This workout involves a consistent protocol of exercises—20 seconds of all-out effort, followed by 10 seconds of rest, repeated for 4 minutes total. While often done on a bike or treadmill, many trainers and instructors are creating Tabata workouts that use bodyweight only. Classes may offer various routines that target different areas of the body, like an ab-focused series of high knees, squat jumps, mountain climbers and knee grabs. Tabata is considered high-intensity interval training (HIIT), so you’ll burn more calories than you would with a less vigorous workout. It also delivers serious core strength, endurance and muscle tone benefits.
Your gym may offer these fitness classes, although you may need to seek out more specialized studios to find them in certain areas. If you’re hesitant about trying one, ask a staffer—or the instructor herself—if it’s the best match for your current fitness level. Once you take the leap, there’s no need to feel discouraged if you’re having a hard time keeping up. Give yourself the opportunity to learn this new activity. A chat with the instructor may also be helpful. She can walk you through a difficult move at a slower pace, or even show you a modified version.