It's overwhelming to look at the mile-long list of classes offered at your health club. Even narrowing it down to the handful that are offered at a time that fits your schedule doesn't help. While many are new classes based on the latest trends, you shouldn't dismiss the old standards just because they've been around for years. There are reasons why classes such as step aerobics continue to be a staple at clubs around the country year after year.
Participating in a 60-minute step aerobics class has been compared to running seven miles, so you know it will get your heart rate going. Any activity that gets your heart pumping provides a cardio workout and cardio is the key to many fitness goals like burning fat, strengthening your heart and lowering cholesterol and blood pressure.
The cardio benefits of a step aerobics class may not come as a surprise, but the muscle building effects might. Just think about it, though -- the basic principle in strength training is that you build muscle by overloading it using weight-bearing exercises. When you work out in a step aerobics class, the resistance is your body weight and the weight-bearing aspect is increased every time you step up. It's true that the muscles you're engaging and building in a step aerobics class are mostly your lower-body muscles, but you can activate your upper-body muscles with upper-body movement and by using hand or wrist weights during your step workout.
The list of advantages of step aerobics gets longer when you consider the psychological benefits you can experience when adding a few classes to your workout regimen. The high-energy atmosphere and music contribute to feeling good, but the exercise itself is what floods your system with mood-boosting chemicals. The Mayo Clinic reports that aerobic exercise not only improves your mood, but it also reduces depression and anxiety while easing tension and promoting relaxation.
Stepping Up Right
You might be concerned about step aerobics being high impact and hard on your joints. But consider where step aerobics came from: Gin Miller, an injured aerobics instructor, got the idea while using stairs to rehab her knee. Miller found it to be a low-impact form of cardio exercise that didn't irritate her knee, inspiring her to develop an aerobics-style class that incorporated stepping up on a low platform. If an injury from step aerobics occurs, it is usually attributed to improper technique or using a bench that isn't the correct height for you. Start out with a step that is no higher than 4 inches, but never use one that requires your knee to bend more than 90 degrees. When stepping, place your foot entirely on the step and don't bounce or hop onto or off of the step.
Elle Di Jensen has been a writer and editor since 1990. She began working in the fitness industry in 1987, and her experience includes editing and publishing a workout manual. She has an extended family of pets, including special needs animals. Jensen attended Idaho and Boise State Universities. Her work has appeared in various print and online publications.