If you were considering a career in healthcare, you may want to think about a job in fitness instead.
Barre instructors are in high demand.
LinkedIn recently found that barre instructor is one of the fastest growing jobs on the site, alongside high-tech positions such as full-stack developer and data scientist.
According to LinkedIn’s findings, the job title “full stack developer” appeared 4.5 times more frequently in 2017 than 2012 while “barre instructor” appeared 3.6 times more often.
LinkedIn speculated that the status of barre instructors reflects “broader societal trends, such as wellness, flexibility, and location mobility.”
But rather than a flexible role for freelance fitness industry professionals, teaching barre classes is mostly a side occupation on top of a 9-to-5 role.
LinkedIn reported that barre instructor profiles showed that it “is a freelance job on the side that U.S. professionals are embracing.”
Boutique fitness studios are generating big business. Barre, a ballet-inspired workout, is the reigning queen of studio workouts.
In 2016, the U.S. health club industry brought in $27.6 billion in revenue, a 7.2 percent increase from 2015, according to International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA).
The association reported “much of the industry’s growth has come from smaller boutiques and sport-specific studios.”
The studio fitness booking site ClassPass noted that barre accounted for 17 percent of all classes booked in 2016, and had a higher increase in bookings than any type of other studio class.
LinkedIn’s report shows the impact barre is having on job prospects, but is it really worth the $25 to $35 price tag per class?
Seeking a long, lean dancer’s body
Barre classes tout that they can translate a ballerina’s warmup into a low-impact class.
However, some say the studios may just be using the ideal of the dancer’s body for marketing.
“If you ask any individual with a background in dance, the only thing that a barre class has in relation to a ballet class is the barre,” explains Pamela Geisel, MS, CSCS, CPT, an exercise physiologist at the Hospital for Special Surgery’s Tisch Sports Performance Center.
“The moves and cuing are very similar to a Pilates class, rather than to a ballet class, but now studios can connect Pilates back to long, lean dancer’s physique.”
Sites for popular barre studios use language that is targeted toward selling women the idea that they can achieve the ideal thin and feminine dancer’s body.
The words long, lean, tone, sculpt, taper, and lift speckle the marketing copy.
Pure Barre promises to be the “fastest… way to change your body,” “create long, lean muscles without bulk,” and concentrate “on the areas women struggle with the most: hips, thighs, seat, abdominals and arms.”
Barre3’s website proclaims that the workout will “tone and lengthen all major muscle groups,” resulting in “proportion in the body that is shapely and attractive.”
It’s a myth that certain workouts will avoid building bulk and encourage lean, lean muscles, Geisel told Healthline.
“All muscle mass is lean, so when people talk about lean muscles it’s a misnomer. The length and shape of our muscles is absolutely determined by our genetics,” she said. “Our origin and our insertion — the anatomical landmarks — are decided way before we start lifting any weight or doing any exercise. You can’t change that.”
At least initially, Geisel was surprised to hear barre is still so popular. She and other fitness pros in her circles thought the shift was toward health and strength-based workouts.
“The way we’re ending 2017, with everything going on in the news, making the push toward women having a voice and standing up for themselves, and an ongoing body positive movement, you’d think that women would stop focusing on what we’re looking like and more on the health factors,” she said.
Barre alone won’t make you fit
Barre classes include a lot of reps of a low weight.
Shaking and burning muscles are routine.
Feeling the burn doesn’t necessarily mean barre can be your sole workout.
Geisel explained that changes in our bodies, like stronger muscles or a healthier heart, come from overloading — or placing stress on the overall body or targeted muscles.
To continue seeing positive changes as someone gets fitter, the stress has to increase. Adding weight for strength training, distance for cardio, or mixing up workouts are all ways to add healthy stress.
“When you’re learning a certain method, like barre, you do the same exercises every time you go and you’re using the same weight. Are you able to achieve a progressive overload to then evoke the changes you’re looking for? I would argue after a certain point of time you’re not going to be able to,” Geisel said.
She explained the concept is similar to running.
“Just like if you run three miles every day, at a certain point, you won’t get any faster. You’ll have to introduce different intensities and different workouts, like sprints, if you want to see changes,” she explained.
Geisel, who works in a rehab setting, shared that many physical therapists are anti-barre because they don’t trust that the instructor can modify for their clientele.
Barre instructors’ ranking in LinkedIn’s top emerging jobs list left Geisel with some questions about the rigor of training.
“If the instructor only learns a certain method, are they able to modify for the population within their classes? Are they able to understand the anatomy and physiology behind the exercises in order to offer modifications?” she wondered.
The best exercise
Doubts aside, Geisel actually enjoys barre classes and isn’t going to tell anyone that one workout is better than another.
“The best exercise is the one that you enjoy doing because you’re more likely to do it and therefore you’re going to see results. Doing something you like is how you’re going to get healthier and change the way you feel about yourself and the way you look,” she said.
Still, she pointed out, any one exercise method alone won’t help you get fit, especially if you’re ignoring your diet.
“To achieve overall fitness, there has to be a balance of strength training, cardio, proper nutrition, mobility, and sleep,” Geisel said. “Those five things are going to make you the healthiest overall — and probably give you that look you’re trying to achieve.”