Find the Best Fitness Class for You

From spinning to the more trendy, what’s new in fitness.

Perhaps making a decision about which fitness class to take was easier in the days when no one had yet heard of SoulCycle and Jane Fonda was introducing us to step aerobics. Though times have changed, choosing among dozens of new fitness and hybrid classes—Barre, CrossFit, Piloxing, Yogilates—is at least giving gym goers a mental workout, if nothing else.

The good news is that many of the most popular fitness classes these days still fit into just a few general categories. Even better, new apps help you find classes to sample before you commit.

Get your heart pumping
Most fitness experts recommend a minimum of 30 minutes of heart-pumping cardiovascular exercise five times a week. So if you’re running, swimming, biking or walking, you’re off to a good start. Combining those workouts with weight-bearing exercises helps you double down: Barre workouts (the trendy ballet-style exercises that work small supportive muscles through isometrics) are a good choice, as well as strength-building yoga classes (focusing on poses like planks and lunges) that will help you get more results from your workout.

Intense classes
For those who want an all-inclusive workout—and need the motivation an amped-up instructor and soundtrack can provide—classes like Zumba (which combines Latin dance and aerobics), SoulCycle (a mix of spinning and intense core work set to seriously high-energy music and flashing lights), CrossFit (which combines high-intensity interval training, calisthenics and powerlifting), and even Tough Mudder training (training for 10-12 mile obstacle mud races designed by British Special Forces), will whip you right into shape.

Of course, if your goal is to relax, Tough Mudder likely isn’t the best option. Restorative yoga, which focuses on breathing and meditation, is offered at nearly every gym these days, as is Pilates, which lifts and lengthens in a similar way to Barre classes, by stretching your muscles.

Or try your hand at a less popular sport such as fencing or curling. Both sports challenge you mentally and get you moving in different ways.

If you want to try a few different options before committing to a class—or if mixing it up is your best motivator—consider signing up for one of the new apps and online directories that help direct you to fitness classes you’re likely to enjoy. ClassPass, for instance, lets members sign up for one-time classes at high-end boutique fitness studios in New York and Boston for a monthly fee that’s lower than most gym memberships in those cities.

Want to really get creative? Gravy, available nationwide for iPhone or Android, lets you sort by interest—search by “brainy” or “lively,” for instance—so you can play ping-pong with a group one day and go on a guided wildflower hike the next.