What to look for when searching for online workouts

With internet access and a small space, you can gain access to full exercise classes online and bring the fitness studio to you. Here are a few things to look for and be mindful of when embarking on a search for Youtube fitness classes.

For fitness enthusiasts and those aiming to increase their physical activity, increasing numbers of people are choosing to exercise home and even forego fitness memberships. It's understandable as this convenient form of exercise may remove barriers to exercise for many. With free streaming platforms, accessibility to structured physical exercise is increased as you can find high-quality, follow-along videos and programs on Youtube. There is a lot of variety out there: dance classes, HIIT, METCON, Pilates, barre, yoga practice, cardio, step classes, spinning classes, strength training, mobility training, pregnancy workouts, family workouts, low-impact HIIT, senior chair fitness, etc. You can find videos with lengths that fit your schedule or what you feel like doing that day. Some free online fitness providers offer occasional live streams with an encouraging chat function of like minded individuals. 

It is easy to find specific workouts such as apartment-friendly, equipment-free, low-impact, and no-repeat for those who are up for some excitement. Some providers offer classes for certain disease conditions, age groups, and beginner exercises. Online workouts are a tool to increase daily physical activity and support physical and mental health. Exercising at home is a preference for many, and if you would rather follow along and not plan a workout, then this is an accessible option. For those of you not well-versed in physical exercise design or protocols-fear not.

On Youtube, you can find qualified and reputable trainers who lead safe and effective workouts for free, at home, or where ever you wish to train. An advantage to the increase in online follow-along exercise format is it can be akin to being in a group fitness class, plus the online format improves accessibility for those unable to join an in-person fitness class for whatever reason. All you need is a small space, an internet connection, and small portable exercise equipment such as dumbells or water bottles/canned food/sandbags for resistance, resistance bands, mini bands, and a mat/towel. 

However, I would be remiss not to mention: err on the side of caution as there is no quality control- anyone can upload and run a fitness channel on Youtube. I've had a few cringe moments where I am following an exercise and immediately notice the lack of a proper warm-up to warm the muscles being exercised in the session, the absence of modifications offered, back-to-back explosive movements putting strain on the knees, thoughts that the overall exercise design can lead to potential injuries, or the video is not well thought out in terms of muscle groups and exercise selections. 

As a fitness professional who worked alongside passionate fitness instructors, personal trainers, and kinesiologists dedicated to safe and effective exercise design and injury prevention, I look for attributes when selecting an online exercise class and want to share them with you.

When searching for online classes:

  • Check if the instructor is certified in leading exercise classes/program design. This can make a big difference in the exercise design that is well-planned, effective, intentional, and safe. 
  • If you're new to exercise, it's a good idea to find an instructor that provides verbal cueing. Verbal cueing helps you complete each movement safely, explains how to position your body, and gives internal cues on what to brace and feel in your body during the movement pattern.
  • A video with a timer, rest count-downs, and upcoming exercise previews are useful because it increases control over your workout. You know exactly what to expect and the length of time for each exercise and break.
  • Scroll through the video first to get an idea of the exercises. If it seems too intense for your training desires that day or lacks modifications, then move on to another video. In the case of exercising for joy, we want to enjoy the movement. For some people, an exercise session which was not percieved as an enjoyable and rewarding experience can be a major set back. It may decrease the chances and future intention to repeat the exercise behaviour again, and it can leave people with the impression that physical exercise is inaccessible. 
  • Listen to your body, move within your range of motion, and be mindful of your injuries. It's your workout and you know your body best! 
  •  If you feel sharp pain then stop that movement, take extra breaks when necessary, and drop the weight if it's too much. It's your workout, take modifications to fit your body and needs. 

Remember to set intentions for your exercise sessions, and set aside sessions for mental health and joy. We want to spread the message that exercising can be joyful and make people feel better in their emotional state. Everyone can experience the joy of movement. It is not only reserved for sports athletes and ultra-trained bodies. We all create good-feeling hormones from exercising. Just remember to move more briskly and elevate your heart rate. Exercise should cause you to breathe a little faster, and remember to move for at least 10 to 30 minutes. 

Here are a few Youtube recommendations.

I have completed many of their classes and feel comfortable writing them here because they offer well-designed and safe classes for all fitness levels. This is NOT sponsored. 

For all fitness levels and a wide variety of classes including walking, bodyweight, resistance training, low-impact and high-impact cardio, and more:

Heather Robertson, Caroline Girvan, Michelle Briehler (provides excellent cueing and offers fun themes), Penny Barnshaw.

For yoga classes: Two Birds Yoga, Floating Yoga School, Doyogawithme.

If you have enough data on your Smartphone, you can follow along outside and get in a green exercise session!