According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control), fewer than half of all Americans get the recommended amounts of weekly exercise outlined in the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines. People who are inactive are at greater risk for early death, heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, depression, and some cancers.

When people do start exercising, research shows they often quit within 6 months (Wilson and Brookfield, 2009). How can fitness professionals help people transition from inactive to active and stick with it over time?

In a joint study, Penn State researchers and the New Zealand Group Fitness Company, Les Mills®, introduced exercise to 29 inactive yet healthy adults. They wanted to see if regularly attending group fitness classes could help participants meet the Physical Activity Guidelines. Researchers eased participants into the program over 6 weeks in hopes of keeping compliance levels high.

The Physical Activity Guidelines include:

  • Cardio Exercise
    • Moderate Intensity – 30 to 60 minutes per day at least 5 days per week – OR –
    • Vigorous Intensity – 20 to 60 minutes at least 3 days per week
  • Strength Training – 2 days per week
  • Flexibility Training – 1 to 2 days per week

The results were positive. By the end of 30 weeks, participants experienced reductions in body mass, body fat percentage, total cholesterol, LDL-C, and triglycerides. Participants increased oxygen consumption, lean body mass percentage, and HDL-C. Compliance was high at 98.8%.

Researchers concluded group fitness can be a good way to maximize health benefits and minimize drop out rates for those new to exercise. An acclimation period proved to be a positive way to ease people into their full routine without becoming overwhelmed.

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