Every year as the calendar turns, many people assess their health goals and make some effort to improve their health but occasionally fall short of expectations.

Whether it’s about losing weight to look better, building strength in important muscles or improving health numbers like blood pressure and heart rate, exercise is more than just a means to an end.

“Exercise truly is medicine,” said Missy Barrow, MA, ACSM, ETT, manager of exercise programming at Vidant Wellness Center. “It is amazing how much better people feel when they make exercise and wellness a part of their lives. Many people just don’t know where to start.”

Group exercise classes can solve problems and open new doors for participants, especially those who are looking for a place to start. For many, the monotony of treadmills, stair climbing, pedaling an indoor bike and resistance training leads to burnout and pushes them away from their goals. The group classes bring variety, fun and others to “share the pain” with while exercising.

“A lot of research points to group exercise classes as a great method to help people enhance weight loss and athleticism all while providing fun and variety to encourage consistency,” said Missy Barrow, manager of Exercise Programming at the Vidant Wellness Center in Greenville. “These classes really can help a lot of people reach their health and wellness goals in the New Year.”

Some classes focus on strength training. These classes typically help burn more calories than other workouts you can do — as many as 500-800 calories by performing resistance work repetitively.

Workouts in this group can be seen in CrossFit classes, Les Mills Body Pump and more at places like the Vidant Wellness Center. Classes such as these become increasingly important to aging populations, Barrow said.

“People over 40 should strength train more than ever to prevent falling and risks associated with falling,” she said. “Different muscle groups are targeted with each exercise in the group fitness classes. It just increases overall fitness which is what we’re aiming for.”

High Intensity Interval Training brings the fun to exercise. Zumba, cardio core, cycling and aquatic classes are a great way to burn calories.

For those who are just beginning to make exercise a priority, Barrow recommends that you listen to your body, understand your limitations and build your way up to higher-intensity classes at your own pace.

“Everybody is different,” Barrow said. “We try to be as accommodating as possible so that everyone can enjoy the energy of group fitness classes without feeling like they need to over exert themselves.”

A great example of this is the chair yoga class at the Wellness Center. Chair yoga is designed to help those with bad joints and limited flexibility enjoy the workout in a modified method that meets their needs.

Finding the right class to fit your needs is only the first step, according to Barrow. The hard part, she said, is building consistency.

“These classes build camaraderie,” Barrow said. “Classmates push each other, support and cheer for each other and even hold each other accountable. By participating in group classes, you lessen the chances of quitting on yourself and your newfound friends, and you lessen the possibility of injury, burnout and boredom from the same routine.”

Sticking to your weight loss and exercise goals in the New Year does not have to be as challenging as it seems. Variety in your workouts, accountability and support from your peers can all help to ease your transition into exercise and make the road to improved health more clear.

To learn more about group fitness classes offered at the Vidant Wellness Center, call 252-847-7899.

Highlighting Your Health is an educational segment courtesy of Vidant Health that appears twice a month in The Daily Reflector. Vidant is a mission-driven, 1,708-bed health system that annually serves a region of more than 1.4 million people in 29 eastern North Carolina counties. As a major resource for health services and education, Vidant’s mission is to improve the health and well-being of eastern North Carolina.

Contact Bobby Burns at baburns@reflector.com and 329.9572.