Community fitness programs

Fitness programs can be offered in a variety of community settings including fitness, community, senior, and community wellness centers. Program offerings vary by location, but often include exercise classes such as spinning/indoor cycling, aerobic dance classes, Zumba, Pilates, Yoga, and Tai Chi.

Expected Beneficial Outcomes (Rated)

  • Increased physical activity

  • Improved physical fitness

Other Potential Beneficial Outcomes

  • Improved mental health

Evidence of Effectiveness

There is strong evidence that fitness and exercise programs offered in community settings increase physical activity levels and improve physical fitness for participating adults and older adults (Holland 2005*Cruz-Ferreira 2011), particularly when these activities are offered with social support interventions (CG-Physical activity).

A variety of fitness activities have been shown to be effective in community settings. Aerobic dance classes such as Step, Bodycombat, TAEBO, and Pump, for example, can be as effective as jogging for calories expended (Rixon 2006). Zumba aerobic dance classes provide moderate intensity exercise (Otto 2011*). Spinning/indoor cycling classes can be high intensity exercise, so may not be suitable for elderly or sedentary middle-aged adults (Lopez-Minarro 2010*Caria 2007*Battista 2008*). Tai Chi appears to engage elderly adults in non-sedentary behavior (Taylor-Piliae 2004*), improve balance, reduce falls (Leung 2011a*), and improve cognitive function (Wayne 2014). Recent research suggests Tai Chi may also improve cardiorespiratory fitness, but stronger, longer-term studies are needed to confirm effects (Zheng 2015). Yoga can improve blood pressure, HDL cholesterol, triglycerides, and many cardiovascular risk factors; however, more long-term studies are needed to confirm effects (Cramer 2014*, Cochrane-Hartley 2014*, Posadzki 2014*). Pilates has been shown to improve flexibility, balance, and endurance among participants (Cruz-Ferreira 2011). Such group-based exercise activities can also improve mental well-being for elderly adults (Windle 2010*).

Organized fitness programs appear to be more attractive to women and elderly adults than to men and younger adults (Holland 2005*), while organized sport activities appear to appeal more to males (Cochrane-Priest 2008a*). Physical activity regimens that include regular feedback, self-monitoring tools, some form of social support, variety in the activities, and friendly competition appear to encourage adult male participation; however, more studies are needed to determine the most effective ways to engage adult males in community-based fitness programs (George 2012*).

Physical activity messages can help motivate individuals to adhere to regular fitness and exercise programs. Messages that are tailored to suit their recipients and framed in terms of gains instead of losses may result in greater physical activity than standard messages (Latimer 2010).

Impact on Disparities

No impact on disparities likely

Implementation Examples

Fitness programs or exercise classes are available in all 50 states and can be found at many local YMCAs or JCCs, community centers, parks and recreation facilities, and public or private gyms (YMCA-Fitness, JCC-Fitness, NRPA-Impacting communities). IDEA Health & Fitness Association has a searchable database of fitness classes offered by zip code (IDEA-Fitness).

Many faith-based organizations also offer regular fitness programs or exercise classes for their congregations. In the Greater Cincinnati area, for example, many congregations have organized faith-based physical activity and wellness programs (WeThrive-Faith).

Implementation Resources

WeThrive-Toolbox - WeThrive!, Hamilton County Public Health. Toolbox and resources used as part of the WeThrive! initiative.

Citations - Evidence

* Journal subscription may be required for access.

Holland 2005* - Holland SK, Greenberg J, Tidwell L, et al. Community-based health coaching, exercise, and health service utilization. Journal of Aging and Health. 2005;17(6):697-716.

Cruz-Ferreira 2011 - Cruz-Ferreira A, Fernandes J, Laranjo L, Bernardo LM, Silva A. A systematic review of the effects of pilates method of exercise in healthy people. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. 2011;92(12):2071-81.

CG-Physical activity - The Guide to Community Preventive Services (The Community Guide). Physical activity.

Rixon 2006 - Rixon KP, Rehor PR, Bemben MG. Analysis of the assessment of caloric expenditure in four modes of aerobic dance. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2006;20(3):593-6.

Otto 2011* - Otto RM, Maniguet E, Peters A, et al. The energy cost of Zumba exercise: 1923: Board #118 June 2 8:00AM - 9:30AM. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 2011;43(5):480.

Lopez-Minarro 2010* - López-Miñarro PA, Muyor Rodríguez JM. Heart rate and overall ratings of perceived exertion during Spinning® cycle indoor session in novice adults. Science & Sports. 2010;25(5):238-44.

Caria 2007* - Caria MA, Tangianu F, Concu A, Crisafulli A, Mameli O. Quantification of spinning bike performance during a standard 50-minute class. Journal of Sports Sciences. 2007;25(4):421-9.

Battista 2008* - Battista RA, Foster C, Andrew J, et al. Physiologic responses during indoor cycling. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2008;22(4):1236-41.

Taylor-Piliae 2004* - Taylor-Piliae RE, Froelicher ES. The effectiveness of Tai Chi exercise in improving aerobic capacity: An updated meta-analysis. Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing. 2004;19(1):48-57.

Leung 2011a* - Leung DPK, Chan CKL, Tsang HWH, Tsang WWN, Jones AYM. Tai chi as an intervention to improve balance and reduce falls in older adults: A systematic and meta-analytic review. Alternative Therapies. 2011;17(1):40-48.

Wayne 2014 - Wayne P, Walsh J, Taylor-Piliae R, et al. The impact of tai chi on cognitive performance in older adults: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. 2014;62(1):25-39.

Zheng 2015 - Zheng G, Li S, Huang M, et al. The effect of tai chi training on cardiorespiratory fitness in healthy adults: A systematic review and meta-analysis. PLOS ONE. 2015;10(2):e0117360.

Cramer 2014* - Cramer H, Lauche R, Haller H, et al. Effects of yoga on cardiovascular disease risk factors: A systematic review and meta-analysis. International Journal of Cardiology. 2014;173(2):170-183

Cochrane-Hartley 2014* - Hartley L, Dyakova M, Holmes J, et al. Yoga for the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease: Review. The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2014;(5):CD010072.

Posadzki 2014* - Posadzki P, Cramer H, Kuzdzal A, Lee MS, Ernst E. Yoga for hypertension: A systematic review of randomized clinical trials. Complementary Therapies in Medicine. 2014;22:511-522.

Windle 2010* - Windle G, Hughes D, Linck P, Russell I, Woods B. Is exercise effective in promoting mental well-being in older age? A systematic review. Aging & Mental Health. 2010;14(6):652-69.

Cochrane-Priest 2008a* - Priest N, Armstrong R, Doyle J, Waters E. Interventions implemented through sporting organisations for increasing participation in sport. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2008;(3): CD004812.

George 2012* - George ES, Kolt GS, Duncan MJ, et al. A review of the effectiveness of physical activity interventions for adult males. Sports Medicine. 2012;42(4):281-300.

Latimer 2010 - Latimer AE, Brawley LR, Bassett RL. A systematic review of three approaches for constructing physical activity messages: What messages work and what improvements are needed? International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity. 2010;7:36.

Citations - Implementation Examples

* Journal subscription may be required for access.

YMCA-Fitness - Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA). Health, well-being & fitness.

JCC-Fitness - Jewish Community Center Association (JCC), Programs and services at JCCs of North America: Health & fitness.

NRPA-Impacting communities - National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA). Impacting communities: Health and wellness.

IDEA-Fitness - IDEA Health & Fitness Association. Find fitness classes & events.

WeThrive-Faith - WeThrive!, Hamilton County Public Health. Our initiatives: WeThrive! for faith-based organizations.

Date Last Updated