EDMONTON -- Unable to actually travel during the pandemic, some Edmontonians have been visiting other parts of the world virtually by way of online fitness classes offered by the city.

Like other fitness centres, those owned by the City of Edmonton have navigated a whirlwind of change over the past year, from being shut down to moving outside.

But when the weather turned colder, and restrictions grew tighter, they had to adapt again and began offering yoga, dance, strength-training and other kinds of exercise classes through a virtual platform.

"It was just great and I think they have just evolved over time. The presentation is much better," 67-year-old retiree Charmaine Yeung told CTV News Edmonton.

During the winter, she takes about seven classes a week – a mixture of Zumba, a cardio-based class, and gentle and chair yoga lessons.

"It's so convenient."

Yeung isn't the only who feels that way. The classes have become so popular, the city is working to add 20 more classes to its already robust schedule of 150 classes per month.

Instructor and program specialist Damara Lopez said one of her most popular sessions counted 83 participants.

"Even pre-COVID, to have a space to have that many people in a class isn't something that a lot of gyms can accommodate," she pointed out.

Lopez told CTV News Edmonton green screens have helped her and her colleagues "keep everything fresh."

"For Valentine's Day, you could do hearts. We were in Halifax the other day. We visited the Great Wall of China last week."

Sometimes, the class simply visits a different rec center in Edmonton.

"I could see how it would affect people mentally, especially if they're used to be an outgoing person, being with friends and social gatherings all the time," Yeung said of COVID-19.

Although she misses her outdoor walks, the city's virtual classes have helped her through the anxiety of living in a pandemic.

"Even though I'm dancing alone at home, I don't feel alone at all because I can communicate."

The classes are shot and broadcast from the Terwillegar Community Recreation Centre but available to anyone who can meet the schedule.

Virtual fitness class

"We have Edmontonians from all over the city logging in," Lopez said, admitting that she previously had mainly taught out of Terwillegar and wouldn't have met many of the clients she sees now.

"It's really interested to see how it's bridged the city."

She's unsure what the future of the virtual classes will be post-pandemic, but knows they've helped to increase access so far.

Classes are free with a $40/month membership, or range in price for non-members from $5 to just under $9.