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Man doing a fitness bootcamp class

Why Fitness Bootcamp Is the Workout You Need Now

You’ll reap multiple benefits from these highly effective classes. Learn what bootcamp can do for your body—and how to get started.

By Amy Gurvitz, Lucy Regan, and Team PelotonUpdated March 13, 2024


If you’re looking for a workout that packs maximum punch in an efficient amount of time, fitness bootcamp classes are the way to go. You’ll get your heart rate up through explosive cardio moves while building stronger muscles via the strength training aspect of these workouts. 

Need more motivation? We’ve got science-backed reasons why you should give fitness bootcamp workouts a try.

What Is a Fitness Bootcamp Workout?

In a nutshell, fitness bootcamp classes are structured, full-body workouts that combine cardio and strength training in a single session. The name comes from the original classes in which functional, military-style movements were incorporated into each routine. Considered a form of high-intensity interval training (HIIT), these exercises are often done as a circuit, where you’ll quickly move from one station to the next. Other times, you’ll alternate between two exercises (sprints on the treadmill, say, and then push-ups or planks on the floor).

Most bootcamp classes don’t require a ton of equipment. You might need a treadmill or stationary bike, a mat, and a medium-to-heavy set of dumbbells at most. Some Peloton classes, like Boxing Bootcamp, just require weights and a mat. There are also bodyweight-only bootcamp classes that give you a great workout with zero equipment required.

The goal with bootcamp is to maximize multiple aspects of fitness in one session: You’ll build strength, raise your heart rate, and challenge your body in new ways. “It has helped me learn new exercises I would not have done on my own, especially core work,” says Brian A., a Peloton Member who regularly takes fitness bootcamp classes.

Are Fitness Bootcamps Worth It?

If you’re looking for a workout that doesn’t drag and keeps you engaged, fitness bootcamp could be for you. “I like to say that by the time you realize how tough something is, it’s over,” says Peloton instructor Jess Sims, who leads bootcamp classes that take anywhere from 20 to 60 minutes. “Lock in and push hard during each segment of the workout, because you know you’ll get that recovery as you transition to and from cardio and the floor.” 

Moreover, a bootcamp HIIT-style workout is a worthwhile option for anyone trying to improve cardiovascular or metabolic health: One study found that after a 10-week HIIT program, participants lowered their abdominal fat percentage, increased VO2 max, improved insulin sensitivity, and had positive changes to their blood lipids profile (a measure of cholesterol). 

Additional research shows that interval training workouts like fitness bootcamp can improve cardio-respiratory factors, making it easier to work out harder and longer.

Does that make them worth it? It depends on your fitness goals. If you’re looking to push your limits and get the maximum bang for your workout buck, then the answer is: Yes.

Who Should Try Fitness Bootcamps?

Of course anyone can try these highly effective workouts—but some people might be a better match than others. One of the main reasons you might want to try these classes is to get the most effective use of your time. “We are all super busy and don’t want to have to choose between cardio or strength,” says Jess. “Bootcamps are beautifully designed so that the floor and cardio portions go together—like spaghetti and meatballs—to ensure you get a complete workout.”

You should also give fitness bootcamp a go if you’re bored of your usual routine, and you have a solid fitness background already. These classes are aimed at exercisers who want to take their workouts to the next level. So if your goal is to get fitter and faster, fitness bootcamp will likely be worth your time.

But because of the intensity (and sometimes complexity) of the moves, there is more risk for injury than a typical moderate- or low-intensity cardio class. Fitness bootcamp is invigorating but it’s also hard—in a good way—so you’ll want a decent base of fitness beneath you before signing up. And if you’re coming back from an injury, it’s safest to start with more moderate forms of exercise before diving into bootcamp.

Benefits of Fitness Bootcamps

 The payoff of fitness bootcamp is significant. You’ll get stronger, fitter, and feel better too. Let’s take a closer look at the many ways you can benefit from fitness bootcamp.

Bootcamp Could Help You Live Longer

No joke. Research in the British Journal of Sports Medicine shows that people who pair cardio with strength training as part of their weekly workouts have a lower mortality risk than those who did just one or the other form of exercise (or none at all). These classes mix cardio with strength training in a single session, giving you the best of both worlds. “Strength training can help with medical conditions by building muscles used in everyday activities,” says Tara Allen, a registered nurse and certified nutritionist. “It also helps with restoring balance and pumping out feel-good hormones called endorphins.”

Fitness Bootcamp Gives Your Metabolism a Boost

As mentioned, HIIT-style workouts are one of the quickest ways to raise your overall fitness. “Bootcamps are HIIT, which means you are still burning calories and increasing your metabolic rate even after the workout is over,” Jess says. Also, the strength training sections build muscle, and the more muscle you have, the higher your metabolism will be.

Bootcamp Builds Strong Bones

Strength training has been shown to reduce the risk of osteoporosis and lower the likelihood of fractures by maintaining bone density, which is important as you age. Moreover, resistance training does more than strengthen your bones; research shows that it also builds functional muscle, which in turn supports bone health.

Bootcamp Is Highly Efficient

No second is wasted in bootcamp, including the transition time from Peloton Bike or Tread to the mat, and vice versa, which act as recovery intervals. “Time is a nonrenewable resource!” Jess says. “I always promise not to waste your time, so you shouldn’t waste your own time either!” By ensuring your body is in near-constant motion, you keep your heart rate elevated and burn more calories in a shorter period of time.

Bootcamp Works Your Entire Body

Studies show that full-body workouts are just as effective as split-body routines when it comes to building muscle strength and mass, but by stressing several muscle groups in a single workout, you’ll save time while getting a better overall sweat session. “I know I’ve worked hard when I can’t tell which part of the body is most sore after my workout,” Jess says. “Running is a full-body workout, but you don’t necessarily know how much you use your upper back to swing your arms until you’ve done some renegade rows on the floor.” 

Bootcamp Might Lower Your Cancer Risk

Research shows that regular strength training can lower the risk of certain cancers. And a study in Medicine & Science in Sports and Exercise found that people who lift weights have a significantly lower risk of developing colon cancer than those who don’t exercise with weights. Additionally, the American Cancer Society’s flagship journal concludes that aerobic exercise may reduce your risk for breast, liver, lung, and prostate cancer (among others), due to its ability to regulate certain hormones associated with cancer development, lower obesity (a known cancer risk factor), and keep your immune system healthy.

Fitness Bootcamp Doesn’t Require a Ton of Equipment

Whether you’re working out at home, while traveling, or at the gym, the great thing about bootcamp classes is that you barely need anything extra to participate. So, what do you need? The right attitude, an instructor who gives you encouragement, and fellow exercisers who make bootcamp classes fun. Research in Frontiers in Psychology shows that social support and exercise enjoyment are the two biggest predictors of whether someone sticks with their exercise routine. With fitness bootcamp, you’ve got both.