fitness classes

From the latest playground-inspired training to ‘Rocky’-style boxing workouts, health writer Amy Bonifas reviews the best new fitness classes to help you refresh your workout.

Want more motivation in the gym? Join an exercise class. Psychologists from Michigan State University have proven that not only does group exercise boost our wellbeing; working out with a partner also gives us a better workout as it brings out our competitive side.

If you’re not sure where to start, read health writer Amy Bonifas’ review of the newest fitness classes on the block to see what’s worth adding to your routine…

fitness classes

1. If you get bored easily, try: Synrgy 360 HIIT

What is it? A fast-paced circuits-style class with the latest equipment.

On test: Held on the gym floor, this class was focused around a functional ‘playground’ of training kit. After a quick warm-up, everyone was allocated a workout station, with the challenge to work as hard as you could before the instructor called time.

I really went into my own zone doing everything from lunges with TRX straps (hello, thighs of steel); to slam balls, which involved throwing a heavy ball down onto the ground to give your triceps a challenge; and good old-fashioned monkey bars. When it got tough, the sound of everyone working hard around me pushed me to keep going.

Intense? Yes. But there was plenty of time to catch my breath in between stations and the instructor was really encouraging. Plus, I felt much more confident using the kit in my own routine afterwards. Win-win.

Fun rating: 9/10

Duration: 30 minutes

Available at: David Lloyd

fitness classes

2. If you want to up your yoga game, try: Hot Yoga

What is it? A flowing yoga class in a heated room (32°C to be exact).

On test: If you’ve had a stressful day and just want a class to help you wind down, this is it. The pace is dynamic but steady, and rather than being unbearably hot, I felt a slow building of warmth that helped me melt a little deeper into each pose.

There was an emphasis on balance poses, from the ‘Chair Pose’, which is similar to a squat, to the ‘Triangle Pose, which gives you a deep stretch in the hamstrings and hips. Bliss if you spend all day sitting at a desk. The heat also encouraged me to breathe steadily and focus more on the moment. I left feeling tingly and warm – and I’m convinced it helped me drop off easier that night.

Fun rating: 8/10

Duration: 55 minutes

Available at: Virgin Active

fitness classes

3. If you want quick and effective, try CXWORX

What is it? The new legs, bums and tums.

On test: Usually, I find targeted core workouts a bit dull but this class was completely free of repetitive sit-ups and crunches. Instead, we used weight plates to add power to the standard exercises, from hip bridges to one-leg squats (cue shaking muscles). Then, we moved onto resistance bands for one-arm shoulder raises across the body to work the core.

The class was over before I knew it and I felt that new areas of my body had been challenged – even those hard-to-reach obliques. It’s a great one to tag onto the end of your gym floor workout.

Fun rating: 7/10

Duration: 30 minutes

Available at: Nuffield Health

fitness classes

4. If you want the PT experience, try: Blaze

What is it? A fun group training cardio workout.

On test: Before we got started I was fitted with a heart rate monitor to track my progress and this really helped me to push myself. The class was split into three sections. The first was based around combat moves, which tested our strength and agility. Then onto the state-of-the-art Woodway treadmill – these are self-powered and help you burn 30% more calories than a normal treadmill, apparently! We did short sprints on a steep incline to get our hearts pumping.

Lastly, we focused on weights using the Blaze BOX – a platform that doubles up as a bench and a dumbbell store. With help from the trainer, we chose weights to suit our ability and lifted to the beat of the music.

My heart rate soared and it definitely played to my competitive side. If a PT isn’t in your budget, this class is perfect.

Fun rating: 10/10

Duration: 45 minutes

Available at: David Lloyd

fitness classes

5. If you want to challenge your mind and body, try: Punch

What is it? A boxing-inspired workout with 12 ‘rounds’.

On test: While tightening up my boxing gloves, I wondered whether I’d last all 12 rounds! But it’s far from intimidating, and much more of a group effort.

We started with a warm-up and learned the basic boxing hits – from the jab to the uppercut (dropping your shoulder and throwing a punch from the ground up). Next were four rounds of ‘amateur’ moves and included two-minute bursts of boxing. Rounds 5-10 were a real challenge as the combinations built in complexity, requiring some extra brainpower and concentration.

Round 11 is the knockout ‘Rocky’-style round where we worked in pairs using a punch bag. We focused on speed and spurred each other on when taking it in turns. The final round was all about targeting our abs, which I definitely felt the next day.

This was a tough one – very sweaty and lots of fun.

Fun rating: 9/10

Duration: 60 minutes

Available at: Virgin Active

Need more motivation to hit the gym? Find out why exercise is as powerful as medicine, according to Dr Hazel Wallace.

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