The Kingsport Aquatic Center offers a number of group workouts for senior adults. David Grace photo.
If the thought of jogging a few miles alone on your treadmill or working out in the basement by yourself is enough to make you quit exercising altogether, you should consider the physical and social benefits of group exercise.
Boredom is a common reason for quitting an exercise program, and group exercise offers a variety of class formats and interaction with other participants.
“I’ve been an instructor and participant of group exercise for going on 10 years now, and I can’t tell you the last time I’ve done a treadmill or worked out on my own,” said Tyler Ramey, healthy living director at the Greater Kingsport Family YMCA. “You push yourself a little harder in a group setting and it’s a huge accountability factor for instructors and participants. Typically, you’re going to the same classes with the same group of people, so there’s a social factor. It changes exercise from something they have to do to something they get to do. It changes the mentality in general and it’s not so intimidating.”
The Greater Kingsport Family YMCA offers more than 80 classes to fit every member and every ability.
“We have cardio only. Strength only. Yoga. Pilates. ... We really try to go by what the participants want. We have 80-plus classes so there are tons of different formats. We’re always on the lookout for the next big thing. We want to always keep things fresh and keep on top of things when it comes to different formats.”
Among the group offerings at the Y are Barre Toning (a total body workout on the ballet bar), Circuit Craze (cardio and strength training), Cycling (using stationary bikes) , Hip Hop (cardio dance class), Total Body H.I.I.T (total body workout consisting of high intensity interval training), Yogalates (a blend of Pilates and yoga) and Zumba (high energy music and moves).
In January, Ramey said, the Y will launch Piloxing, a combination of kick boxing and Pilates; Turbo Kick, a pre-choreographed Zumba-style exercise with kickboxing moves; and a kettlebell-only class.
“Right now, the most popular are Zumba for sure. That’s just because the energy in there is always crazy. We might have 80-plus people. I think that one is good because out of all the classes, it’s probably the least intimidating, even though it has the most people,” Ramey said. “You just go in there and do it.”
Group exercise, he said, is mainly a woman’s world, but when it comes to sports conditioning, its not unusual to have a 50/50 split of men and women.
“Group exercise, to me, is the way to go. It’s my favorite. You get involved and it’s so much easier to maintain it than trying to do it on your own,” he said.
Group exercise at the Kingsport Aquatic Center, which features the region’s only indoor Olympic-size pool, includes a number of activities for seniors.
“Our senior water aerobics class is enormously popular and one of the benefits with that population of class is there’s less impact on their joints because of the buoyancy properties of the water,” said Aquatic Center Director Keri Matheney. “A lot of times, with the senior class, they’re retired, so getting them in a group adds socialization. It’s great for physical well-being, but also for the aspect of interacting with other people. It’s very encouraging to have those partners.”
The Aquatic Center has classes every day for seniors. But there’s also group events for every age.
“With our deep water aerobics class, you don’t have any impact on your joints because you’re not touching the bottom at all. The flotation belts keep you buoyant. You’re pushing against the water. It’s a whole body workout. It’s for anybody. All of our classes are geared for anybody. The deep water classes are taught in the cooler pool and a lot of the seniors prefer the warm-water classes in the warm pool. We have a lot of women [in the deep water aerobics], probably anywhere from [age] 30 to 60. We have some older women who absolutely love it,” Matheney said.
Paddle Board Yoga combines the skill of paddle boarding with the calmness of yoga.
“Right now, we have lot of lifeguards super drawn to it. It doesn’t take as much effort as most people think. It’s not as challenging. We’ve actually had kids, 10, 11, 12 years old and adults. You’re standing on the paddle board and learning to balance and use the paddle. The latter part of the class is doing different yoga techniques and you’re focused on the parts of your body you’re working on and your balance,” she said.
In Aqua Jog, participants learn different jogging techniques — from a high knee to wide leg — to work different muscle groups. This is a little more high intensity workout, Matheney said.
The Aquatic Center’s new attraction, the 51-foot-long obstacle course inflatable Commando Aqua Run, features a duel lane run and is a great way to combat childhood obesity, Matheney said.
“It’s not a combat sport and they don’t have to have a lot of hand-eye coordination. They’re having fun and they can race their brother, their friend. They are working a lot of muscle groups that they normally don’t think they would. It’s more of an attraction similar to our Lily Pad Crossing, but people can do it year-round and it does work you out, that’s for sure,” she said.
To further cater to children, the Y is looking to add water classes for children roughly ages 8 to 15, she said.
“We really want to promote healthy living and getting children into fun exercise,” she said.
And for adults, the Y is considering Latin water aerobic classes, similar to Zumba on land.
“The instructors really want to make it fun, regardless of the age,” she said. “When you’re having fun, you don’t really get that you’re working out and exercising. It doesn’t seem like a chore.”