Fitness in New Orleans can be a hard thing to attain—and maintain—with constant food-centric festivals, alcohol flowing all day everywhere and delicacies that mostly “start with a roux,” a mixture of flour and fat. Thankfully, there are several classes dedicated to helping locals and visitors stay in shape while laissant les bon temps roulant.
One of the city’s most popular fitness groups is Move Ya Brass, which vice president Thomas Nguyen describes as “a fitness movement that is all about community.” Each week the group hosts a Monday-night guided run and Tuesday-evening bounce-music dance class/workout at Crescent Park, overlooking the Mississippi River. Singer Robin Barnes started the group in 2015 with just 10 people, and it’s since blossomed to more than 460 members. But they aren’t all local; visitors are encouraged to join in as well. Programs can also be tailored for conventions and other groups.
What’s great about Move Ya Brass is that classes are free and there’s no fitness requirement—real or perceived—for participants.
“There is no one fitness level that one must achieve to be with Move Ya Brass,” says Nguyen. “We want to cheer you on from start to finish to complete your workout, whether you are running, walking those two or three miles or getting through that Bounce Ya Brass or hip-hop dance/cardio workout.” Even children are welcome.
At the New Orleans Jazz Market’s monthly Bounce Fitness with MoeJo events, participants get a great workout while learning a few classic New Orleans-style dance moves. “My first objective is to reach people’s spirit and heart, because that’s the most important foundation of wellness,” says founder Marissa “MoeJoe” Joseph. Incorporating zydeco and second-line moves, MoeJo’s energetic “danceouts” help participants “shed pounds, get leaner bodies, lift their buns and gain confidence, along with an appreciation for Louisiana Creole culture.”
“To me, the best part of traveling is sampling the local cuisine,” said Rupa Mohan, the brain behind The Sweat Social, the nation’s first wellness service specifically designed for travelers. “The worst part is feeling like you’ve gained five pounds and need to start all over at the gym.”
In addition to “active tours” of the city, Mohan’s group conducts 30-minute fitness classes at Woldenberg Park and other locations that include yoga, kickboxing and more.
Yoga is a perfect alternative for those who want to wind down and decompress after a too-fun weekend or stressful business trip. “It can be a great way to break up an otherwise totally debauched visit,” said yogini and certified Pilates instructor Robin Gruenfeld, who conducts classes at the New Orleans Athletic Club. Yoga classes also speak to the loving nature of New Orleans, the tradition of uniting in relaxation. “There are a ton of great studios in the city that cater to this communal aspect of yoga,” said Swan River Yoga instructor Alex Hood, “be it for people who live here or for visitors."
Each yoga class and studio is different and, notes Gruenfeld, “often the feel of the studio will mirror the neighborhood in which it's situated.” That’s ideal for visitors who want to connect to the area they’re staying in, or for those who want to feel like they’re at the yoga studios in their hometowns.
You’ll find yoga and Pilates classes offered at tourist attractions citywide, from the New Orleans Museum of Art to the Louisiana State Museum's Cabildo. Another fun way to combine exercising with exploration is on a New Orleans Jogging Tour. Part 10K run/part sightseeing trip, groups take off every morning from the Old U.S. Mint; private and customized excursions are also available.
New Orleans has all types of visitors: business-trippers, honeymooners, bachelor partiers, family reunioners, just-passing-throughers. Just like it has lodging, restaurants, bars and attractions geared to every type, there’s a fitness class for everyone too. So enjoy the beignets, gumbo, fried seafood po’boys, pralines, bananas Foster and Hand Grenades knowing there are several ways to work them off … while keeping the party going.