The Fitness Zone

How To Use Music and Choreography to Enhance the Group Exercise Experience

Nov 21, 2023 | by Louise Royle


The importance of group exercise experiences extends far beyond just physical fitness. Engaging in workouts within a group setting offers a myriad of benefits that encompass physical health, mental well-being, and social connection. Group exercise creates an environment where individuals can come together, share common fitness goals, and collectively work towards achieving them. These shared experiences foster a sense of community, motivation, and mutual support, making it a potent catalyst for sustained fitness routines. Moreover, the dynamic nature of group exercise, often guided by skilled instructors, provides participants with structured and motivating workouts that can help push their limits, achieve better results, and have fun while doing so.

In this article, we will delve into one of the key elements that enhance group exercise experiences: the art of using music and choreography to elevate engagement, motivation, and overall effectiveness, resulting in workouts that are not only physically transformative but also highly enjoyable and socially enriching.

The role of music and choreography in enhancing these group exercise experiences cannot be overstated. Music and choreography are the dynamic duo that breathe life into group workouts, transforming them from routine physical activities into engaging, motivating, and unforgettable journeys.

Music and its Influence on Group Exercise

Music is the heartbeat of these experiences, exerting influence on participants at various levels psychologically, emotionally, and physiologically. The artful selection of rhythms and melodies can do more than just elevate moods; it has the power to divert attention from fatigue and forge deep emotional connections. These connections not only serve as wellsprings of motivation but also kindle a sense of unity among participants, transcending the individual experience. As a natural metronome, music’s tempo refines coordination and synchrony within the group, bestowing a language that instructors use to guide participants seamlessly through their exercises.

To curate the perfect playlist for your classes, we’ve compiled a comprehensive list of considerations:

Music Licence 

In Australia music creators generally authorise two organisations to administer their rights and collect their royalties – APRA AMCOS (composers and music publishers) and PPCA (recording artists and record labels).

A OneMusic Australia licence bundles all those rights into one licence and further simplifies the process of gaining the required permission to use music.

If you wish to play music in your fitness class, you must get permission or a licence. You can approach each of the rights owners directly or obtain a blanket licence from OneMusic.

Additionally, if you legitimately buy music from legal online distributors you should check their relevant terms and conditions to make sure that you are licensed for the relevant purpose, including for using the music in a commercial setting.

Please keep in mind that you cannot make multiple copies of the digital file, such as physically copying the file from your computer onto multiple devices, for use in a business context. (2)

Sound Equipment

As fitness instructors, our role often involves leading group exercise sessions in diverse fitness facilities, each equipped with its own distinct sound system. While we don’t need to be sound system experts, it’s crucial to understand that the equipment in these fitness facilities differs from what we might have at home. Therefore, we must come prepared with the appropriate equipment and sound accessories that can complement and adapt to the specific sound system in each facility. This ensures that our classes run smoothly and that participants can enjoy the best possible audio experience (2)

Music Volume 

When combined with an instructor’s vocal intensity, music can pose a potential risk of hearing impairment for both the instructor and the participants, particularly when volume levels are inadequately regulated. In group exercise classes, where music is an integral component, the risk of gradual and cumulative hearing loss becomes a concern. 

Unfortunately, many instructors may not be fully cognizant of the risks associated with high-volume music and the necessity of raising their voices to be heard over it, potentially endangering the hearing of both class members and themselves. Hence, when playing music in any group exercise environment, it is imperative to exercise control over the volume levels of both the music and our vocal delivery. A practical guideline is to ensure that you can hear your own voice clearly and distinctly above the sound of the music, thereby minimising the risk of hearing damage for all involved. (2)

Crafting Playlists for Seamless Flow and Energy Management:

The rhythm and pacing of a group exercise class are pivotal in maintaining participant engagement. Instructors are the conductors of this musical journey, curating playlists that ensure a logical progression throughout the session. Instructors can learn to artfully structure playlists, orchestrating the ebb and flow of energy. Commencing with invigorating warm-up tracks, transitioning to peak energy tracks during the main workout, and concluding with calming cool-down selections, these playlists enhance the overall flow of the workout and enable participants to manage their energy levels effectively.

Cultural and Demographic Sensitivity:

The cultural and demographic makeup of a group can significantly influence musical preferences. Instructors should be attuned to these factors and adjust their music selections accordingly. Encouraging instructors to diversify their playlists with music from various cultures enhances inclusivity and broadens the class’s appeal. Moreover, hosting themed workouts featuring music from specific regions or cultural traditions adds an enriching dimension to the experience.

Customising Music for Different Workouts:

Each exercise style demands a tailored musical accompaniment. For example, the high-energy nature of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) thrives on fast and intense tracks. The selection of songs featuring uplifting and motivating lyrics can have a profound impact, pushing participants to give their all.

Conversely, the gentle and serene rhythms of calming, melodic music seamlessly harmonise with the tranquil atmosphere of yoga or Pilates sessions. This music choice effectively soothes the mind and body, effortlessly tapping into the parasympathetic nervous system. As a result, it facilitates a natural lowering of the breath and heart rate, creating a serene and rejuvenating experience.(1)

Elevating Performance and Stamina (BPM)

Studies have illuminated the profound impact of music on physical performance. Music’s precise tempo and rhythm can synchronise movement patterns, leading to heightened efficiency and endurance. Instructors can strategically structure workouts, aligning exercises with the beats per minute (BPM) of selected music. For cardio sessions, faster BPMs create a stimulating backdrop, whereas slower BPMs gracefully accompany stretching and relaxation exercises. (1)

Apps such as BPM Tap and TapThatTempo are also great tools to help ensure the correct beat is selected when generating your own playlists. (3)(4)

Now that we have grasped the fundamental elements of music within a musical track, we can delve into the realm of choreography in group exercise and how music plays a pivotal role in shaping our choreographic choices.

To illustrate this symbiotic relationship:

Beats: These serve as our metronome, allowing us to stay in perfect time. For instance, in a march, each step aligns precisely with a beat, ensuring synchronicity with the music’s rhythm.

Phrases: Phrases enable us to structure our choreography effectively. Generally, a single movement corresponds to one phrase, which typically spans 8 counts. These phrases provide the building blocks for our choreography, allowing us to assemble sequences of movements.

Blocks: Blocks, in the context of choreography, serve as the foundation for introducing and cementing specific movements. At the commencement of a new movement, we employ a block of 8 counts to acquaint participants with the technique. As the choreography progresses, we break down these blocks into smaller units, typically phrases. This gradual approach facilitates the introduction of new movements and the seamless integration of previously learned ones into novel sequences.

When developing group exercise choreography, our creative process is guided by the beats within the music. These beats serve as both the blueprint and the inspiration, enabling us to construct movement sequences that not only synchronise with the music but also enhance the overall flow and impact of the exercise session. (2)

Choreography and its Influence on Group Exercise

The role of choreography in group exercise routines is multifaceted and significant. Choreography adds structure, creativity, and synchronisation to workouts, enhancing the overall experience for participants. Here are the key aspects that define the role of choreography in group exercise:

Structuring Workouts:

Choreography provides a systematic and organised structure to group exercise routines. Instead of participants engaging in a random series of movements, choreography creates a clear and well-planned sequence of exercises. This structure ensures that the workout is both effective and safe.

Coordination and Synchronisation:

Synchronised movements are a fundamental aspect of choreography. Instructors design routines where participants move in unison, matching the rhythm and timing of the music. This synchronisation not only looks visually appealing but also fosters a sense of unity among participants. It’s akin to a dance where everyone is a part of the same performance.

Enhancing Engagement:

Choreography adds an element of creativity and entertainment to group exercise. It makes workouts more engaging and enjoyable by breaking the monotony of repetitive exercises. Participants are not just performing exercises; they are following a structured and visually stimulating routine that keeps them actively involved.

Creativity and Variety:

The choreography allows for creativity and variety in group exercise routines. Instructors can design new routines or adapt existing ones to keep the workouts fresh and exciting. The creativity in choreography can appeal to participants with different skill levels and interests.

Sense of Achievement:

Learning and performing choreographed movements can provide a sense of achievement for participants. It gives them goals to work toward and helps boost their self-confidence. Successfully following a choreographed routine can be highly motivating and rewarding.

Community and Teamwork:

As participants move in unison with choreography, they experience a sense of community and teamwork. The shared experience of following the same routine creates a bond among participants. It fosters a supportive and encouraging atmosphere that can lead to long-lasting fitness relationships.

In summary, choreography plays a vital role in group exercise routines by adding structure, enhancing engagement, and fostering a sense of community. It transforms workouts into more than just physical activities; it turns them into dynamic and emotionally fulfilling experiences that keep participants coming back for more.


Using music and choreography to enhance the group exercise experience is a powerful strategy to elevate engagement, motivation, and overall effectiveness. Music, with its emotive force and rhythm, creates a mood-enhancing, unifying environment. Choreography adds structure, coordination, and creativity, making workouts more engaging and enjoyable. Together, they serve as non-verbal communication tools, amplify motivation, and foster a sense of community. This dynamic duo transforms group exercise from routine physical activities into captivating, emotionally fulfilling, and socially enriching experiences that empower participants and keep them returning for more.


Louise Royle

Louise Royle

With a remarkable three-decade tenure in the Fitness Industry, Louise's journey began with a background in dance education. She seamlessly transitioned into the realm of fitness instruction, where her true passion lies—teaching group exercise classes. Over the years, her teaching repertoire has spanned a wide spectrum, encompassing diverse classes ranging from Pump to Pilates. Throughout her extensive career in the fitness field, Louise has donned various hats, including roles as a Personal Trainer, Studio Manager, Fitness Manager, Operations Manager, and Regional Manager within several prominent health clubs. Her multifaceted experience eventually led her to embark on a new path as a Trainer and Assessor. Louise's driving passion is twofold. Firstly, she is devoted to guiding and nurturing students, helping them forge successful careers within the fitness industry. Additionally, her commitment extends to individuals directly, where she empowers them to attain healthier lifestyles and an improved quality of life. Her extensive expertise and unwavering dedication make her a valuable asset to the fitness and wellness community.

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