Bringing Group Exercise into Schools: Dance, Strength & Yoga

Group exercise instructors can fight childhood obesity and increase physical activity in our youth by teaching exercise classes in the school system.

If you read my article – Build Your Resume with Kids Group Exercise – then you know that 1:3 youth are obese.  As a fitness professional, it is time to start thinking about how YOU can help fix this problem.

Parents – what fitness opportunities does your child’s school offer, if any? No, I don’t mean organized sports. I’m talking about group exercise activities that are noncompetitive, engaging, and perhaps even social! If kids had more opportunities to engage in physical activities at school, they would be more active. How do I know this? Check this out:

A new study published in Pediatrics in 2015 revealed that adolescents aged 12-16, who wore tracking devices for a week, spent approximately 42% of their physical-activity time at school (Halvorson 13). The researchers of this study concluded that students also spent a great deal of inactive time at school. Furthermore, these researchers also concluded that increasing physical activity requires strategies in program improvements in unsupportive locations, such as schools and homes.


I’ve been a classroom teacher for 16 years, currently now teaching PE, and what do teachers preach? Strategies! So, the most obvious strategy I see is to increase the amount of physical-fitness offerings at school. You know the adage, offer it “and they will come.” With more opportunities to be active, we can increase that 42% cited above.

Here are three traditional group exercise formats that can be implemented in a school setting, likely as an after-school club. As an educated and certified group exercise leader, you can start a class that emphasizes a noncompetitive, engaging, social environment. So, this is a shout out for you to get into your child’s, niece’s, or grandson’s school and offer them additional physical activities.

DANCE: The “Party” Approach

Zumba, Hip Hop, Jazz, oh my! This general format is surely the epitome of a social scene—regardless of age. Two years ago, I was the advisor for our middle school dance team. The dancers learned routines, toured our town, and felt a sense of belonging to something bigger than themselves. Last year, my position in our school district changed, but my motivation for providing exciting kid opportunities remained unchanged. Therefore, this Fall I’m starting my elementary school’s first Hip Hop Dance Club for my fourth and fifth graders. I expect them to laugh a lot and feel like they belong to something special. This is a far greater reward than watching TV after school while parked on the couch.

STRENGTH TRAINING: The “Tough Guy” Approach

Pumping iron is cool, right? It also happens to fight obesity in teens. A study published in Medicine & Science in Sports and Exercise in 2015 concluded that after 12 weeks of resistance training by 14 year olds, the obese students made “’significant’ improvements in body fat, waist circumference, waist-to-hip ratio…and overall fitness” (Halverson 13). So, instructors, use your creative resistance-training experience and motivate our teens with a new class. If equipment at the school is scarce, get creative and use body-weight exercises, partnerships, and strength-building games. Share your best ideas and get ideas from others in our choreography exchange.

Teenagers do believe that getting stronger is “cool.”

YOGA: The “Zen” Approach

Yoga for boys? Absolutely! Not all teenage boys want to build bulky muscles. A study by Seo et al in 2012 found that obese boys who worked out at 40-60% of their heart rate reserve three times per week lowered their body weight, body mass index, fat mass, and body fat percentage (Bracko 43). Why is this so exciting? Because nowadays yoga is trendy and cool. And its calming nature may help relieve some of those anxieties of being a teenager.

The question remains: How can you implement a new group exercise class in your local school?
  • First, make sure you have liability insurance. If you don’t know where to start, begin with your certifying body.
  • Next, visit the school’s principal. Know there is a chance that the school may or may not be able to pay you to teach. If not, you may consider charging the students a minimal fee, or you may qualify for funding from a grant, such as an after-school grant. Regardless, the bottom line is that you will be doing something for the betterment of others—for our next generation. Plus, you’ll be able to list the class on your fitness resume! Just know that you will most likely be required to complete a criminal background check.
  • Finally, remember that, as instructors, we view safety as paramount, but kids view the fun factor above all else. Make sure the exercises and movements are age appropriate and safe, while encouraging a fun, playful environment.

Let’s do this! Whatever activity or format you choose and wherever you teach it, remember that your impact on those kids will have a lasting positive affect. And, ironically, the same positive affect will fill your heart, as it has mine.

Want to learn more and get further educated in Youth Fitness, then make sure to check out all the various Youth Fitness Education courses listed in our Fitness Education Directory.

Works Cited

  • Bracko, Mike. “Success in Our Genes—And Smart Programming.” IDEA Fitness Journal. April 2016, 40-47.
  • Halvorson, Ryan. “Exercise in Schools.” IDEA Fitness Journal, March 2016, 13.
  • “Liability Insurance for Fitness and Wellness Professionals.”, August 28, 2016.

Bringing Group Exercise into Schools: Dance, Strength & Yoga

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