Want to get fitter but can’t decide between exercise classes or cardio machines? We compared both to help you decide. Read on to find out who won.
If you’ve been looking for a way to lose weight, build muscle and improve your overall fitness, then you’ve probably already considered the different options available to you.
Walk into any gym and you’ll see the cardio machines are full of people working hard, trying to achieve their goals. But it also seems like exercises classes are becoming just as popular too, but which one is right for you?
We’ve outlined what you can expect and looked at the pros and cons to help you decide.
Read on to see which one comes out on top.
Aerobic classes have always been extremely popular and a big reason for that is because of the fun, community element.
They bring big groups of people together to exercise and by adding music, they create a fun exercise environment.
What to Expect
When most people think of aerobic classes they think of bored housewives wearing spandex, following along to a Jane Fonda style workout. And although those types of classes do still exist, the style and delivery of modern group exercises classes have transformed immensely. Including the introduction of more intense and challenging workouts that push participants to, and past their limits.
Group exercise is extremely popular and whether you walk into a commercial gym or make your way to a private studio, you’ll find a range of exercises classes to meet your different needs, whether you’re looking for a way to work up a sweat, build your muscles or improve your core.
At the heart of all of these classes is the principle of bringing people together to achieve a common fitness goal and exercise in a fun environment.
Here are some of the most popular classes:
Many of these classes give you the chance to lower the intensity and work at your own level, but some are much more advanced and wouldn’t be recommended for beginners. Almost all classes also use music to create a fun exercise vibe.
Pros of Doing Aerobic Classes
There are plenty of benefits of taking part in exercise classes. Here are some of the biggest pros.
Have Lots of Fun
A huge benefit to group exercise classes is the fun environment the sessions create.
Many classes use teamwork and paired exercises to help make the classes more fun and almost all of them will use high-tempo, upbeat music to set the mood for the class. Whether you’re working with a partner, vibing out to the beats, or laughing with others as you try to complete the exercises, fun and camaraderie is a big part of these classes.
Many people go to classes as it adds an extra level of challenge and accountability to their workouts compared to what they will experience when exercising alone on a cardio machine. Not only will you have more structure in a class, but you’ll also have other members to encourage you and an instructor to guide you through the session, which is a huge factor in helping to push yourself beyond what you normally do.
Get Results Faster
One of the biggest benefits of exercise classes is that many combine different elements of fitness to help you progress faster. A HIIT class for example uses high-intensity intervals to help you burn calories at a high rate, and it may also include weights to help you build muscle at the same time.
By completing these intense full-body workout sessions that include different pieces of equipment, and working at a higher intensity throughout, many people can see results sooner than they would if they were only using cardio machines.
Explore Different Disciplines
Whatever your experience with exercise, classes give you a great way to learn more about your likes, dislikes, and preferences. It’s also a great place for you to try new disciplines for the first time. For example, many people who are intimidated by the resistance area in the gym, love that they can use weights, and discover their strength in a class. Equally, people who may not like to run might realize that the short sprints performed in classes are more enjoyable to them. Sure, some classes just follow a set plan, but many will combine different elements to help the participants explore multiple fitness disciplines.
Be Part of a Community
There’s something about being with like-minded people who are working towards the same goal as you that makes exercises classes fun. Over time, members begin to bond with the other participants, and friendships are formed, which is why exercise classes are so popular. They’re great places to meet others and make friends and can even lead to activities outside of the exercise class.
Although exercise classes can be a great place for people to learn a skill, the instructors are not always able to give you the individual support that you need with your technique, which can lead to mistakes and poor form.
When you don’t correct your technique and continue to use poor form, bad habits set in, which can eventually lead to injury.
Even in classes such as spinning, it’s still possible to use poor technique or to set the bike up wrong, and potentially cause yourself harm, which can cause issues for you in the long term.
If you enjoy variety, group interaction, and a challenge when exercising, then a group exercise class is the best option for you. It’s a wonderful feeling when you’re working with others, in a fun environment, and it can make your weekly exercise routine so much more enjoyable, helping you to stay motivated and committed for longer.
Our only piece of advice is to make sure your technique is correct. Don’t try to push through any pain or discomfort, and whether you speak to the instructor or do your own research online, just be sure you’re performing the exercises the right way to keep your body safe.
Cardio machines are hugely popular, both in gyms and when looking to workout at home. Exercising on a cardio machine is usually a solo activity, although there’s nothing to stop you from exercising with friends who are on machines nearby.
What to Expect
Most commercial gyms are a mix of weights and cardio equipment. The typical cardio machines you’ll see includes all of the popular ones, such as:
These machines are generally used for longer sessions of up to 30 minutes (or more) although they can also be used for quicker bouts of training too. In recent years there’s also been an increase in gyms adding newer types of cardio machines which are often more intense.
These machines are popular in CrossFit and are often used in quick short bursts because of how intense and tiring they are.
For example, while it may be possible to stay on an exercise bike for up to an hour without having to stop, it would be very difficult to do the same on an Assault Air Bike.
You cannot lower the intensity on an Air Bike like you can on other bikes, and because of this, most people use them for no longer than a few minutes at a time.
Pros of Cardio Machines
Cardio machines have a lot of great benefits. Let’s take a look at them below.
Exercise on your Own Terms
If you want to work on your aerobic fitness at your own pace then a cardio machine puts you in complete control. You can change all the variables, such as the speed or difficulty and you can also build your session around your own goals, whether that’s to cover a certain distance or to exercise for a certain length of time. Giving you complete control over what you do and how you do it.
Safe and Stable
A huge benefit of cardio machines is how safe they are when used properly. Each machine will usually have some type of handle, footrest or safety clip for you to hold on to, helping to keep you safe and secure when you’re completing a session.
The machines are also ‘fixed’, and move in a pre-designed way, which means you don’t have to worry about uneven ground or losing control like you would if you were exercising outside.
Great for Beginners
If you’re new to exercise or recovering from an injury then a cardio machine could be your best option. Most cardio machines are low-impact, making them easier on the joints. And even in the case of a treadmill, it’s much softer than running on concrete.
When you then consider how safe they are and how much control you have, you can see why they’re so effective for beginners.
If you already enjoy a particular type of exercise, such as running, cycling, or rowing, then cardio machines can be a great choice for cold-weather training.
These machines allow you the opportunity to continue training indoors (and making good progress), while also helping you to ease some of the tension your body may face if you were outside.
It also gives you the flexibility to train on your own schedule, even when the weather changes in the winter months.
Monitor your Progress With Real-Time Results
Cardio machines usually come with a central screen that displays all your vital exercise data. On some machines, this can be quite simple, such as highlighting the distance you’ve covered and how many calories you’ve burned. But on others it can be more complex, giving you detailed information on your heart rate zones and the intensity of your effort.
Many modern machines also come with mobile apps, meaning you can sync your machine to the app and keep track of your progress over time.
It has to be said that while cardio machines are hugely popular, some things could be improved. The most common complaint is that they’re boring to use. Most people use a machine for up to 30 minutes at a time and because you’re just in one place, repeating the same motion, it can quickly become boring and repetitive.
Cardio machines are an amazing option if you’re new to exercise, returning from injury, or using them as a way to improve your health and fitness. They also give you the chance to exercise at your own pace, without being affected by anyone else and many are great if you’re looking for a low-impact exercise option. They’re easy to use, and they’re also easily available if you’re looking for a machine you can use at home, when building your own home gym.
When trying to figure out which cardio option is right for you, our advice is to ask yourself the following:
What do you want to achieve?
How do you like to exercise?
Do you need someone to motivate you?
When you answer these questions the answer becomes clear.
If you’re training for a race, and you don’t need anyone else to motivate you then sticking to exercise machines and working on your fitness would be the right choice for you. Equally, if your goals are simply to lose weight and feel better, and you like to have fun when you exercise, then a class is the way to go.
However, if you have no clear choice either way, and you’re simply looking for a good form of cardio exercise, you could always try combining them both into your weekly routine. Some people even like to use a machine before an exercise class, to sufficiently warm their body up so they’re ready for the class.
Just make sure whatever you decide, it’s something you enjoy.
That’ll make it easier to stick to long term which can help you get better results.