No Catch, Just a Release: Free Fitness Classes in NYC

Free yoga Brooklyn Bridge Park

Looking for a little incentive to get outdoors and exercise? Thanks to the NYC Department of Parks & Recreation, there are plenty of opportunities across the five boroughs for all fitness levels and ages to enjoy the greenery while getting in some relaxing, healthy movement. Here are some of our favorite free fitness classes in NYC.

The Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy invites you to bring a mat, towel, and water to the Boardwalk in Empire-Fulton Ferry State Park on Mondays in July. Morning Yoga will be led by Dodge YMCA at Pier 1’s Bridge View Lawn, so get ready to sweat and merge mind, body, soul, and skyline.

Part contemporary art garden, part al fresco gym, the Socrates Sculpture Park in Long Island City is one of New York’s hidden gems, hosting free aerobics classes on Saturdays and Sundays into October. Whether you want to work on your breathing, strengthen your core, or learn self-defense, Socrates Sculpture Park offers everything from yoga to Capoeira to pilates to Tai Chi and even kayaking.

The New York City Department of Parks & Recreation’s Shape Up NYC program offers free classes every week taught by qualified instructors. On Monday night, there is an African Dance class at St. Mary’s Recreation Center in the Bronx. Yogis gather on Saturday mornings at the A.R.R.O.W. Field House in Queens. A more elderly crowd congregates for a Senior Fitness Class on Monday and Thursday mornings at Independence Towers Senior/Community Center in Brooklyn. Staten Islanders can choose between a Body Conditioning or more dynamic Zumba class at the Greenbelt Recreation Center.

Beyond classes, on the first Monday of each month there is free access to city recreation centers (second Monday in September). Go try one out and maybe you’ll want to become a regular member. Or if you’re ready to go to the beach but are missing one key element—swimming skills—NYC’s parks are offering free swimming lessons to all New Yorkers regardless of age. There is Open Lap Swimming for the more water-adept, Adapted Aquatics lessons for mentally and physically challenged persons, and Senior Splash sessions, which include light water exercises.

With so many (free) options, there is no excuse to sit around. Best of all, you’ll likely find an activity close enough to home that you can even walk, run or bike to it.

Photo: Etienne Frossard