The Many Benefits of Barre Workouts

It can be difficult to find the right workout. It may be too challenging or not energizing enough. Some classes are higher-impact than what we want or may focus on cardio, but neglect strength and mobility. And others are just a trudge. 

The amazing thing about barre workouts is that they check off so many fitness boxes – strength, cardio, balance, flexibility, endurance – and do so in a sustainable way.  Even better, barre targets muscles large and small, shaping arms, your core, quads, hips and glutes. Barre does a lot, but importantly, it does it all quite well.

I take a 6 a.m. barre class nearly every Monday to Friday, also on the weekends when I’m not out of town skiing. This workout has helped me stay fit, with long and lean muscles and be in great shape in my 50’s.  

Dr. Karen Horton stretching in barre class. Photo Credit: Amelia Plumb Photography.

“I wish more people knew that it doesn’t matter where you are on your health and wellness journey, Pure Barre is for EVERY-BODY”, said Nina Falls, Owner of Pure Barre Mill Valley. “I always say don’t wait to try it! It’s truly safe and effective no matter who you are or what stage of life you are in, you just have to commit to yourself. It’s not just a workout, it’s a lifestyle that can give you longevity in anything you enjoy doing.”

Nina Falls, owner of Pure Barre in Mill Valley. Photo Credit: Amelia Plumb Photography.

Barre combines many different movements – including ballet, Pilates and yoga – into one cohesive workout. It uses our own body weight for resistance training, but is decidedly low impact. These workouts are built around small repeated motions that reach a wide range of muscles: isometric holds, squats, tucks and pulses are just a few examples. One of barre’s strengths is its variety.

Another advantage is simplicity. Barre doesn’t require an actual ballet bar, even though the practice is built around ballet moves. We can use chairs or a wall, for example. Most importantly, barre is just fun, with upbeat music and class camaraderie. The moves are fast, and they give practitioners that good kind of fatigue that comes from a great workout. “I was initially attracted to this exercise technique because it felt like something I actually enjoyed doing and the benefit just happened to be that it worked to keep me healthy and strong”, said Falls. 

Resistance tubes, balls and weights are used in barre workouts together with body weight. Photo Credit: Amelia Plumb Photography.

Mind/Body, Strength/Cardio

One aspect that sets barre apart from other workouts is its ability to focus the mind on the practice’s many small motions. This ability to bring our minds fully into the workout accentuates the mind/body connection and can be an excellent stress reliever.

“I love teaching barre for so many reasons! The top being that I get a lot of joy in seeing other people find their love of the technique,” said Falls. “Hearing how Pure Barre has helped someone through an injury, or through a pregnancy, or has just helped them find a healthier lifestyle is very satisfying.”

Weights are not required; though some people like a little bit of extra resistance. Barre combines body weight with repetitive movement to increase strength, muscle mass and endurance.

Nina instructs side seat “pretzel” during barre class. Photo Credit: Amelia Plumb Photography.

Unlike more stereotypical strength training, which focuses on higher weights and fewer reps, this technique builds on repetition rather than intensity. The key is time under tension, or how much a specific muscle is actually being used. We don’t have to lift a building, we just need to make the muscles work and keep on working.

Improve Core Strength

Another great aspect of barre is its ability to strengthen the core, which is essential for pretty much everything. Core strength is integrated into virtually every motion, which makes it a relatively painless way to get a nice ab workout. Barre excels at abdominal toning because of its ability to micro-target muscles, even difficult-to-strengthen ones. 

This workout is quite heavily focused on the upper body, which pays many dividends for our backs and shoulders. One of the greatest benefits is its ability to maintain, or improve, posture. As we strengthen our back, shoulders and core, we can feel as if we’re being lifted into great posture. And it’s not just a momentary workout thing. This is something we can carry with us throughout the day.

Barre class can improve posture and strengthen the core in every move. Photo Credit: Amelia Plumb Photography.

Barre workouts are challenging, uplifting and personally rewarding.  Being in a group with friendly faces is motivating and supportive. Doing this workout helps me stay fit as a Plastic Surgeon and avoid workplace-related stress and strain injuries that many surgeons unfortunately suffer during the middle of their careers. 

Dr. Karen Horton stretching during a brief pause during a fast-paced barre workout. Photo Credit: Amelia Plumb Photography.

“When I first started taking classes I was thrilled to realize just how quickly 50 minutes would go by,” said Falls. The music, the energy in the room, and your own internal focus really allows for everything else to fall away, and the next thing you know it’s over and you feel a huge sense of accomplishment.”

Karen M. Horton, MD, FACS

Dr. Karen Horton is an internationally Board Certified Plastic Surgeon in San Francisco, a fitness enthusiast, proud mom to fraternal twin girls, and devoted wife of nearly 3 decades. A surgeon’s daughter, she is proud to have built a successful, women-focused boutique private practice in Pacific Heights. Featuring a brand new Quad A-certified, fully equipped operating room, Dr. Horton offers her patients the highest level of aesthetic care, both surgical and non-surgical, in a modern, bright and discrete setting. She considers it an honor and a privilege to care for her patients! To learn more about Dr. Horton, visit and follow her on social at @drkarenhorton.