Here’s the thing about exercise classes: you can enjoy them purely on their own terms, reaping the benefits from every session. But classes can also be a springboard to a new fitness routine.

You may be a beginner who wants to start building regular exercise into your life but you aren’t ready to hit the gym quite yet. You may be interested in trying a new sport but feel you need to put in some preparation first. Whatever the case, fitness classes are a great way to get started.

What’s more, exercising with others is a great way to build confidence and improve motivation. In a class, you’ll also have the support of an experienced instructor who can guide you through the moves – perfect for anyone new to fitness.

We’ve rounded up the best exercise classes to set you up for your next fitness journey. Whether you’re looking to build overall strength, target specific muscle groups or improve cardio performance, there’s a session for you.

1. Dance classes

Good for: overall fitness; cardio endurance

If you’re interested in a cardio-based exercise or sport, such as running or tennis, but feel like your lung capacity isn’t currently quite up to it, start with regular dance fitness classes. When you’re doing a session like Zumba®, you’re too busy having fun and getting the steps right to notice that you’re getting out of breath. Over time, watch as your endurance improves.

2. Pilates

Good for: building strength, particularly in the core

Worried that even the lightest weights in the gym could pose a challenge? Build strength with Pilates classes. Now, we’re certainly not saying that Pilates is an ‘easy’ workout – it’s not – but in these sessions you’ll use your own bodyweight to start getting stronger, which can be less intimidating than going straight into lifting weights or using machines. Your teacher will adapt the movements to suit your ability, so you can start getting benefits even as a total beginner.

Once you’ve been going to classes for a while, you can add to the challenge by trying Reformer Pilates.

3. HIIT classes

Good for: improving stamina in short sessions

If you want to supercharge your fitness but don’t have a lot of time in your schedule, try HIIT classes. These sessions are all about brief but intense bursts of activity followed by periods of rest, and are typically shorter than the usual fitness class.

4. Aqua classes

Good for: protecting the joints and muscles while you work out

If you’re returning to exercise after injury, it’s a good idea to start with a low-impact class like aqua. The water will support you as you run through the routines, lessening the chance of another injury and hopefully boosting your confidence.

But don’t think low impact is code for low energy! Aqua classes will give you an excellent full-body workout, setting you up for both cardio and strength workouts on dry land later down the line.

5. Group cycling classes

Good for: enhancing cardio endurance in a low-impact way

If you’ve watched any kind of cycling race, you may be shaking your head in bafflement at the description of cycling as ‘low impact’. And yet, cycling classes put a lot less strain on your joints than running, while still giving you a high-intensity cardio workout.

You don’t even need to be able to cycle to do one of these classes, as you’ll be on a stationery bike. You can go as a complete beginner and gradually build up your strength and endurance.

6. Barre classes

Good for: a super-powered strength workout

While the word ‘barre’ may conjure up images of elegant, graceful ballet dancers, the reality is that these sessions give you a powerful workout. In fact, there’s no dancing in barre classes, rather a series of movements designed to push muscles to their limit.

You’ll probably find it tough at first, but persevere and you’ll create a strong base that will serve you well in all other types of sport and exercise.

7. Gym-floor classes

Good for: learning how to maximise your gym sessions

Working out in the gym doesn’t have to be a solo endeavour. Look out for gym-floor classes – as the name suggests, these sessions take place in the gym, led by an instructor, and are great for getting ideas of how to use the equipment in your own time.

Once you’ve got started, remember that one of the most important parts of any fitness routine is recovery. That’s as true for beginners as for professional athletes. Stay on track and reduce your risk of injury with our complete guide to recovery after exercise.