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Do virtual fitness programs really work?

A person exercising in their living room

Your success depends on your experience level and motivation

Virtual fitness programs are workouts designed to be completed outside of the gym, such as the home, garage, yard or even the park. Many people follow written steps on an app or an on-screen instructor to stay in shape. Recently, the popularity of these virtual fitness programs has skyrocketed.

“COVID propelled this trend,” says Jake Phillips, Clinical Integration Coordinator at Beacon Health & Fitness. When lockdowns started in 2020, people had to bring their workouts out of the gym. “Now, people like the convenience of working out from home. They don’t have to drive to a gym, and they feel more comfortable in private.”

Virtual programs can be a useful tool for people with a good understanding of different exercises and moves. They’re also ideal for people who are relatively healthy and motivated. But for many people, these virtual programs won’t do.

Why virtual programs aren’t always effective

Virtual fitness classes are designed to reach a lot of people, so they’re very general – which doesn’t account for all fitness levels or restrictions. “If you don’t fall into the general demographic, it can be hard to find the right movement options for you to complete,” says Zach Benko, Beacon Health & Fitness Manager. “People who are new to exercise may not understand how to execute movements correctly.”

Some disadvantages to virtual programs can even be dangerous. “Pre-recorded classes can’t provide feedback,” Benko says. With in-person fitness classes or personal training, instructors help participants exercise safely, which is especially important for individuals with certain medical conditions or mobility issues. “In live classes, instructors can assess your abilities and limitations to guide you toward the best possible movement option, while coaching and improving form and technique when needed.”

In-person programs offer another unique advantage: relationships. “One of the greatest motivators when exercising is relationships, so the lack of interaction in some virtual programs can be a difficult barrier,” Benko says.

How to make the most of virtual programs

For people who can’t make it to the gym, Phillips offers advice on making virtual fitness programs work better. “Make sure you have the proper equipment, the right space and the foundational knowledge. Start with professional personal trainers to get a basic understanding of where your fitness level is and what would be appropriate for you. Talk with your physician before starting, too.”

Phillips also encourages people to research the programs they’re interested in before starting. “There are some online platforms that offer more variety and direct people a bit better. Decide what your goal is and what is enjoyable for you to stick with it long-term. The key is choosing something you’ll enjoy, rather than something you’ll have to force yourself to do.”

And for people who want to get a full fitness experience, Benko always recommends Beacon Health & Fitness. “We have degreed and certified associates and specialists. They work with members who have limitations and want to understand how to exercise safely despite their condition,” he says. “Access to skilled and educated staff is a tremendous benefit of a medical fitness facility.”

The benefit at Beacon

While both experts prefer in-person fitness programs, they recognize that there are still advantages to virtual ones. That’s why Beacon Health & Fitness offers a variety of in-person and virtual fitness programs. Programming includes in-person group exercise classes, pre-recorded Les Milles classes and virtual personal training via Zoom.

“There’s no better resource to learn about exercise than at Beacon Health & Fitness. You’re not just paying to access the facility, but also to gain the knowledge and expertise that you’ll carry with you for the rest of your life. This information and experience has the potential to increase your quality of life,” says Benko.

If you’re interested in supplementing your virtual program with in-person time, or you want to bring your fitness to a new level, become a member of Beacon Health & Fitness today.