24 Best Practices on Group Fitness Classes at Health Clubs

Group fitness classes can be a key driver of attendance and revenue at your fitness center or studio. However, it’s essential that your group fitness program is well run to reap the benefits of a top-notch offering.

Sandra Dunne, managing director of Gym Plus Ireland, and Aida Johnson-Rapp, founder and CEO of Aspire to Harmony, contributed to this article.

Exercise classes are a favorite of many health club and fitness studio members. A good group exercise class can attract new customers to your facility, increase retention, and drive referrals. When properly managed, group exercise can be one of the keys to your fitness center’s success.

Nevertheless, developing a world-class group exercise program is not easy! Whether you’re creating a new group fitness program or fine-tuning an existing one, start by reading the best practices below and then review the additional resources at the bottom of the article to learn more.

This article is one in a series of 28 Best Practice Guidelines for Operating a Fitness Facility.

Best Practices for Group Fitness Classes

We’ve divided these guidelines into four categories to help you design your group fitness offerings:

  1. Scheduling and Promoting Classes

  2. Hiring and Training

  3. Designing Group Fitness Classes to Meet Various Needs

  4. Setting Up the Class Space

Scheduling and Promoting Classes

1. Use group fitness classes to help customers and members develop same-day, same-time routines. Build your class schedule so customers can attend the same class 2-3 times each week at the same time. Make it easy for your customers to add classes to their calendars.

2. Don’t feel locked into one-hour classes. Abbreviated classes are proven to be effective in physical fitness conditioning.

3. Consider offering a free class to local, first-time customers.

4. Develop a marketing and programming plan branded for the facility. Communicate schedule updates and launches along with special events and last-minute changes.

5. Post class schedules in the facility, online, and on your app where relevant. Prominently feature your class schedule on your website—it should be dynamic and easy to navigate.

6. Ensure that all classes start and end on time.

7. Allow adequate time before and after class for comfortable equipment set up, sanitization, and storage.

Hiring and Training

8. Empower a creative team of instructors who can identify trends and create new programming.

9. Train instructors on how to connect with customers, build rapport, and serve as brand ambassadors.

10. Establish an instructor code of conduct via a documented SOP (standard operating procedure). Update regularly and have all instructors sign an acknowledgment of receipt.

11. Create a communication system for accessing important company announcements, policies, and procedures.

12. Train instructors to operate all equipment and technology required for class content and delivery.

13. In the U.S., the IHRSA Board of Directors recommends that IHRSA member clubs hire personal trainers holding at least one current certification from a certifying organization/agency with third-party accreditation of its certification procedures and protocols from an independent, experienced, and nationally recognized accrediting body.

14. This recommendation applies to group exercise instructors outside of the U.S. who should maintain an active group fitness certification recognized by the National Register of Exercise Professionals, which should be a member of ICREPS. Instructors should also hold additional certifications/licenses required for the class format and complete all continuing education requirements.

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Designing Group Fitness Classes to Meet Various Needs

15. Consider offering a variety of classes and class times that cater to a diverse population of ages, abilities, and demographics.

16. Ensure instructors know how to modify any exercise to increase or decrease intensity and make other adaptations, as necessary, to accommodate a range of abilities and conditions.

17. Utilize resources prepared by the IHRSA Foundation with support from UFIT (the UNESCO Chair in Inclusive Fitness, Sport & Recreation) and the Special Olympics. These tools provide education and resources covering a wide range of disabilities and conditions.

18. Begin each class with a quick health screen and safety message.

19. Include proper warm-up and cool-down segments for each class.

Setting Up the Class Space

20. Consider integrating technology through a hybrid model of live, virtual, and on-demand classes.

21. Install a quality and reliable sound system; select music with an appropriate BPM (beats per minute) for the specific exercises.

22. Install a suitable height stage so all customers can easily see the instructor.

23. Establish a maximum capacity for the class space and provide an appropriate amount of equipment. Maximize access while maintaining adequate space for each customer.

24. Install well-defined storage space for class equipment, preferably in a storage room with wide entrances, to keep clutter away from customers and allow easy access before and after class.

This article is part of the 28 Best Practice Guidelines for Operating a Fitness Facility series, where we’ll cover topics like Fitness Inclusion, Information Technology Systems, and more in upcoming articles.

Additional Group Fitness Resources:

IHRSA has an extensive library of group fitness articles, webinars, publications, and videos. View our Fitness Programming section to learn about creating high-quality group fitness classes.

Tools for Inclusion in Fitness - These IHRSA Foundation resources can help your facility be more inclusive of people with intellectual, physical, and/or sensory disabilities.

11 Best Practices on Virtual Offerings at Health & Fitness Clubs - If you’re considering adding virtual or hybrid classes to your group exercise offerings, review these guidelines to get started.

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HFA Staff @HealthFitAssoc

This article was a team effort by several HFA experts.