The Simplest Way to Stay Motivated to Exercise

By Brittany Risher |

Choose the right group class, and you’ll always want to go. Here’s your six-step plan.

water bottle, towel, and dumbbells

If you don’t enjoy exercise classes, you probably haven’t found the right one yet. After all, group classes provide three huge benefits:

  1. You get fit.
  2. You have fun.
  3. You can’t wait to do it again.

“The social aspects keep you engaged,” says Sabrena Jo, a senior exercise scientist with the American Council on Exercise. As you get to know the people sweating, stretching, and dancing beside you, you’ll develop relationships and look forward to coming back. Eventually a habit forms, results follow, and you can’t imagine spending your weekday mornings or afternoons anywhere else.

But which class is right for you? That’s a harder question to answer because there are so many to choose from. With nine SilverSneakers classes and dozens of SilverSneakers FLEX classes, there’s something for everyone. Plus, most gyms offer their own classes.

How do you choose? To streamline the selection process, follow these six steps. And if you haven’t yet, check your eligibility for SilverSneakers so you’ll have a better idea of what’s available to you. Not a member? These tips can still help you evaluate your options.

Step #1: Define Your Goal

What do you hope to accomplish? That’s a critical question to answer, and here’s why: When you see results—and realize you can transform your body—you feel like you can do anything. You’ll look forward to building on your progress every day.

Classes may focus on cardio, strength training, flexibility, or stability—or incorporate dance, water, or martial arts. They all have their merits, but knowing your goal will help narrow the options right away.

Step #2: Read Beyond the Class Name

Most classes provide multiple benefits so read the descriptions for clues, Jo says. For example, if your goal is increasing strength or preserving muscle mass but you don’t enjoy lifting weights, find a class that uses bodyweight movements. Or try a cardio-strength combo class like SilverSneakers Circuit or SilverSneakers CardioFit.

If you’re new to exercise, look for the words “beginner” or “level one.” Even if you already exercise on your own, Jo says, it’s a good idea to start with the beginner class so you can get a feel for the format and then advance when you’re ready.

Step #3: Talk to the Instructor

There’s no need to be intimidated. “Once you start the conversation,” Jo says, “you’ll find that the type of person who chooses to be a group fitness instructor is someone who really cares about helping people.”

If you have an injury or chronic issue, follow any instructions from your doctor, and be honest with the instructor. Ask the instructor something like, “I’m interested in your step aerobics class, but I have little bit of arthritis in my knee. Would this class still be appropriate for me?”

If certain exercises aren’t appropriate for you, the instructor may explain how you can make them easier or safer. Good news: SilverSneakers instructors are specifically trained to work with older adults and will be able to advise you on what to modify or skip.

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Step #4: Talk to the Students

If you’re considering a particular class, you can learn a lot from the people already taking it. Ask them what they like and dislike about the class and instructor, and if they always look forward to coming.

“A great question is, “How long have you been attending this class?’” Jo says. “If they’ve been coming a long time, they must be getting something good out of it.”

Step #5: Scout a Class

Tour the room where the class is held, ideally during a class or when participants are setting up or leaving. How crowded is the space?

“If you’re taking a class that requires equipment, like steps, balls, weights, and tubing, being cramped in can create a fall hazard,” Jo says. You want to be sure that you’ll have the space you need to be safe.

In addition, knowing how the studio is set up will help you feel more comfortable when you arrive for your first class.

Step #6: Give It a Try

When in doubt, just go! Chances are, you’ll love it. But if not, consider why. Are you unsure about the instructor? Did you feel too much like the new kid at school?

Both are to be expected. That’s why Jo recommends giving it a couple of more tries. “You can’t develop that social camaraderie with complete strangers in one class,” she says. “Go enough times to see some familiar faces and feel comfortable.”

Also, talk to the teacher. They can tell you if the class is always the same or if they change the format, says Marc Santa Maria, national director of group fitness at Crunch. “Maybe you only want to come on Mondays, when they focus on core work.”

In the end, if you decide the class isn’t a fit, consider it a learning experience. Figuring out what you like or didn’t like will help lead you to the right fit. Need ideas on what to try next? Check out these helpful resources:

FLEX Program