American Council on Exercise by American Council on Exercise

Options for delivering an inspiring group fitness class have greatly increased over the years. Fortunately, the diverse ways in which you can bring your workouts to participants is no longer limited by location or timing! The following is a high-level overview of delivery options available. Of course, this does not include every option that exists or the countless ways in which these options can be mixed, matched and layered. That said, familiarizing yourself with what is possible will help you understand options that are currently available, as well as concepts to consider in the future. Let this information set the stage for exploring all the ways you can get people moving.

First, let’s break down where you, as a group fitness instructor (GFI), and your participants might be physically:




The GFI and participants are physically in the same location exercising synchronously. 

The GFI and participants are not physically in the same location. A variety of platforms and services may be used to deliver the workout and exercise may occur synchronously or asynchronously.  

This is a combination of in-person classes and virtual classes wherein an in-person class is also broadcast to virtual participants. 


In-person classes are a tried and true method for delivering meaningful group fitness experiences. GFIs have relied on in-person, or face-to-face, instruction for as long as group fitness has been around. During in-person classes, a sense of community and connection naturally develops as you and your participants get to know one another over time. Greeting people with a smile, establishing direct eye contact, and using participant names when cueing during class serve to enhance a sense of camaraderie and social support. In addition, physically seeing and hearing participants in the same space provides a much more accurate representation of body language, effort level and experiential understanding than may be possible during virtual classes.


Virtual classes may seem like a new delivery option to explore, but they have been around much longer than you may realize. From exercise records (yes, records!), to VHS, DVDs and even TV shows, exercising with an instructor from afar has long been available for consumers. However, only recently have GFIs begun to fully explore how the many virtual options that exist can expand their reach. Virtual sessions come in many shapes and sizes, but we can divide them into two broad categories to begin our conversation:



GFI and participants are exercising at the same time, but in different locations, via the use of WiFi-enabled devices. This is sometimes referred to as “livestreaming.” 

GFI and participants are not exercising at the same time. Classes may be delivered via a WiFi-enabled device or offline once downloaded. The exercise experience itself is recorded by the GFI and participants access the recording at a separate time. This is sometimes referred to as “video on demand.”  

If you choose to provide synchronous exercise opportunities, you have two options: 

  • One-way broadcast: In a one-way broadcast, the participants can see the instructor, but the instructor cannot see the participants and the participants cannot see one another. This allows you to avoid possible distractions or interference from participants also appearing on-screen, and the participants are better able to focus on your direction and cueing. Some participants may also find comfort in the anonymity of a one-way broadcast, especially those new(er) to exercise or the format. In addition, the quality of the stream will be enhanced in most cases when compared to a two-way broadcast.  
  • Two-way broadcast: In a two-way broadcast, the participants can see the instructor and, if they choose to turn on their video, they can be seen by the instructor and one another. This allows you to view participants as they exercise and participants can also view themselves as they participate (much like a mirror in an in-person class). Creating a connection is a bit easier when cameras and chat functions available. Some may even prefer the intimate and personal nature of being with each other in an at-home environment.   

Asynchronous classes typically offer the highest quality experience if the sound and editing are done well. Also, there are fewer chances for interference based on internet or streaming interruptions. Participants can also pause the video if they are interrupted during their experience. As with a one-way broadcast, the ability to exercise on their schedule and “anonymously” can increase a participant’s confidence and provide an opportunity for them to experiment with new instructors and formats to find the best fit.

An often overlooked tool for asynchronous instruction is the use of audio, rather than video, to deliver pre-recorded workouts for participants. Formats such as meditation, running and cycling are the most common use of this type of delivery, but strength, yoga or stretching classes can work as well.

The audio experience provides a guided environment for participants who like to do their own thing but still want the programming (what to do and when to do it), cues, and motivation from an instructor. Auditory learners may have an easier time understanding your workout by being able to focus on the verbal cues provided.


Hybrid is a new(er) model where a class is conducted in-person, while simultaneously being broadcast virtually to participants. Combining in-person and virtual options can help increase your reach if in-person capacity is limited. In addition, allowing participants to tune in from outside of your physical space provides flexibility and the opportunity for those who may be unable to make it to your location to participate. Teaching to both an in-person and virtual audience can be challenging for the instructor, but if mastered, provides a potential increase in return on investment.

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