Monday, February 27, 2012

Pros and Cons of "Basement" Group Exercise Classes

Many non-traditional sites, such as churches, homes, parks, community buildings, and malls, are now offering group exercise, dance, aerobic, yoga, or other types of fitness classes. Bringing fitness opportunities to the masses is a good thing...or is it?

Pros and Cons of Group Exercise Classes in the Community- Photo by Crystal Abbott at Wikimedia Commons
Advantages of "Basement" Group Exercise Classes

Many of these group exercise classes are offered closer to home, so patrons can save time and money and may be more likely to attend regularly if it is convenient and appealing to them. Perhaps a church where one attends is offering fitness opportunities. Sometimes a group will get together and become rather tight-knit as they become accountability partners for one another and encourage each other to continue toward fitness goals. Times might be more convenient or class options might be more flexible for those who attend.

An investment for a gym sign-up and membership is not required in most of these situations. Some classes may be free or be offered at very low rates. Discounts might be offered for those who come on a regular basis. Many of these types of classes are cash-only and you only pay if you attend the workout, unlike most gym memberships in which you pay a set monthly fee whether or not you utilize the facility and often must pay an additional fee to join.

Sometimes the rules are much looser in this environment. Perhaps the music is more to one's taste. Those with children may be allowed to bring them to class where a gym might have requirements with a minimum age or ability. Some who might not be accepted for membership at a gym may find that they are welcomed in a privately offered group exercise class.

The instructors who teach these classes may be certified, and many of them also teach classes at gyms and have years of experience. Some offer great choreography, high energy, and a safe routine while offering a variety of options according to the athletic abilities of participants. Some of these instructors are highly motivated to provide excellent classes that keep people coming back.

Is That Exercise Class Safe? © Katrena
Disadvantages of "Basement" Group Exercise Classes

Emergency equipment, such as an AED and barrier device for CPR, may not be readily available, and the instructor may or may not be trained in how to handle an emergency situation in a "basement" group exercise area. These facilities may or may not have clear emergency procedures in place, and class sizes may exceed a safe number. If an accident occurred, the facility may or may not have insurance to cover damages due to a group exercise class offered at that location and may or may not have supplies such as ice or gloves. Contact information for a participant's next of kin may not be readily available if an emergency did occur.

The group exercise instructor may not have any training or may have minimal or outdated certifications. Some instructors at these workouts may offer moves that have the potential to cause serious injury to certain populations without offering any alternative positions. Classes that are too large for the area or that allow small children in classes that are full to overflowing might result in injuries as well.

Few group exercise classes offered in these cases offer facilities that are designed for aerobic exercise. The group might be working out on a floor surface that could potentially result in injuries over time or the surface might be carpeted and not appropriate for certain movements due to safety reasons. Most gyms pay fees for rights to play music and for other legal issues while many of the "basement" group exercise facilities lack some of these behind-the-scenes requirements.

Cleaning supplies, disinfection of common equipment and surfaces, and proper infection control procedures may or may not be in place. Proper ventilation and temperature control may also be lacking in the "basement" style of group exercise, and the workout area might have potentially hazardous furniture or supplies in close proximity to participants.

Although these classes might save people money in the short term, the deal might not seem as sweet if one regularly attends the classes. Some people end up paying more for this style of workout than they would pay for a gym membership with a much wider variety of fitness opportunities over the long haul. Someone who drops a gym membership planning to attend this style of exercise may be taking a big chance. The instructor may not be working under any sort of contract – if he or she suddenly decides to stop teaching for whatever reason, this could leave the group scrambling for options and may result in added fees to re-join a gym.

If the instructor or the instructor's child(ren) become ill, the class might be cancelled, leaving patrons of this style of workout with fewer options for exercise. Sometimes people might bring sick children to one of these workouts or come clearly contagious, potentially exposing numerous adults and/or children to infections when a gym would have policies regarding sick kids and may be able to offer a substitute instructor or alternate workout if the instructor is ill and unable to attend.

Many gyms screen potential members and employees. For example, background checks and drug testing might be required for employment. Those with certain criminal records may be denied membership rights. This sort of screening may or may not occur with the private group exercise setting. If childcare is offered during the "basement" group exercise class, those who are watching the children may or may not be well suited or qualified for the job.

Unexpected Places for Fitness Classes - Photo by Nyttend at Wikimedia Commons
 Group Exercise in the Community

As our society tends to become less fit, I think it is great to see additional exercise opportunities that may reach more people. Many people have found great workouts, wonderful friends, and a healthier lifestyle with group exercise classes offered in community buildings, churches, and other areas that haven't traditionally offered that sort of service in the past.

However, it is important to be savvy when making exercise choices and to consider factors that have the potential to cause injury, problems, or even a tragedy and to check with one's healthcare provider before beginning any exercise program. A wide variety of situations are out there, both in gyms and in the community. Make sure those fitness decisions become a great investment for one's future health!

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