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The Most Effective Group Exercise Classes for Busy Moms


For some of us, self-motivating and going to the gym to run on a treadmill just isn’t the most effective way to work out. To get a real workout, you might find yourself spending well over an hour in front of a machine - not ideal when you’re trying to re-learn subtraction (however they’re teaching it in elementary school today), and planning much needed family face-time. While some thrive on the solitude of “gym time”, it’s not for everyone and it’s not always the most effective way to get fit. For this reason, many busy moms are turning to group exercise classes that combine cardio and strength training in a class environment.

Here are three types of group exercise classes that will fit into your schedule - and your fitness goals:

1. Dance Fitness

Dance fitness classes have been around for many years in many reincarnations for a simple reason: they’re a fun way to combine cardio and toning for an effective workout. Today’s dance fitness classes are more than just choreography, they’re designed to give you a challenging workout and burn up to 480 calories in an hour. Some classes will including weights or equipment for an additional challenge. We recommend looking for:

  • Zumba®, Zumba® Step, or Zumba® Toning: Zumba® is one of today’s most well-known and popular dance fitness classes. Dance moves are easy-to-follow and the “Step” and “Toning” versions include aerobics steps or light weights to help you tone legs and arms.
  • POUND: Rockout. Workout.™: In a POUND class, you’ll focus a little less on moving around and a lot more on toning and targeting specific muscle groups. You’ll hold weighted drumsticks, called Ripstix™, and drum on the floor while jumping, squatting, or crunching.
  • CIZE™: Created by Shaun T and a team of professional choreographers, this relative newcomer to the Dance Fitness world includes full dance routines to popular, hit songs and is suitable for all skill levels.

2. Cycling

Unlike dance fitness classes, group cycling classes don’t require any rhythm or memorized choreography. Classes are typically 50 to 80 minutes long,lead by a motivating instructor, and set to music. Ultimately, you can set your own pace and adjust as needed. The latest cycling classes do more than put you on a bike: they’ll include hills, sprints, and flats or off-bike circuit and resistance training to mix it up. You’ll burn up to 550 calories a 50-minute class (and up to 880 in an 80-minute class), making this one of the most efficient forms are cardio you can get. In addition to traditional cycling classes, some new versions to try include:

  • Kilocycle, which combines a complete cycle cardio workout with off-bike strength training for an all-in-one fitness class.
  • Circuit Cycle, which mixes on-bike cycling with off-bike exercises, including core and strength training, making it a great way to mix up your workout.
  • Killer Cycle, a class which will keep you on the bike but integrates outdoor elements, such as hills for resistance and flats for sprinting. This class will give you a true interval workout.

3. Functional Fitness

If you’re ready for a different kind of group fitness challenge, functional fitness classes, which focus on performance as much as fitness, are a great way to up the ante. You’ll use everyday movements in new ways, focusing on speed, agility, range of motion, core strength, and flexibility. These classes often incorporate new movements and variations, which make them a great option if you find yourself getting bored in a more choreographed class. Although these classes may not be ideal for someone totally new to working out, if you’ve sweated through some workouts and fitness classes before, they offer a serious burn of up to 700 calories in an hour, great for a busy mom who only has time for one class. Some popular functional fitness classes include:

  • Boxing Conditioning which will introduce you to basic boxing skills and techniques. These classes are designed to increase strength and cardio endurance, which helps you work out so efficiently. You’ll do cardio calisthenics, shadow boxing, bag work, and core exercises. Typically, you’ll need 14-16 ounce boxing gloves and a mouth piece. 
  • MATRX, a class that combines TRX suspension bodyweight exercises with MMA Cardio Conditioning. This class will include more MMA training moves in addition to calisthenics, suspension training, and core strengthening exercises. Heavy bags and the TRX suspension trainer are the primary focus. Like boxing conditioning classes, you should also have boxing gloves and hand wraps.
  • Daily Ultimate Training (D.U.T™). DUT is boot camp-style class that uses the principle of high-intensity interval training and is exclusive to UFC GYM. This challenging class will have you moving at very high intensity for some periods and lower intensity for others. You’ll jump rope, lift weights, and complete circuit drills as part of the class.

If you’re not ready to step into full on functional fitness classes just yet, there are a number of circuit-style classes that will help you step up your game without feeling overwhelmed. We recommend checking out classes like PiYo, Circuit Breaker, and Turbo Kick® which still deliver a challenge but will also include modifications for all skill levels.

What’s your favorite group exercise class? What’s the hardest one you’ve ever tried? Let us know in the comments.

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