Whether you’re a beginner just starting to step or a long-term fan who's been stepping with Jane Fonda since the 1980s, incorporating a step aerobics workout into your regimen is an effective way of burning calories and fat. Feel free to customize your step aerobics routine to suit your needs and help you reach your fitness goals, no matter what they are.
Warm up with a few minutes of light cardio -- such as walking on a treadmill -- then stretch, targeting the muscles in your legs and thighs. You may also want to warm up by stepping in place without using the aerobic step, just to help warm the muscles you’re about to use.
Place your aerobic step on a flat surface. Adjust the step's height so you can step on and off of it without bending your knee more than 90 degrees. You can place the step vertically or horizontally in front of you. Beginners may want to choose a lower height until they’re used to a step aerobics workout. The higher the step, the harder the workout will be. The American Council on Exercise recommends setting the aerobics step between 4 and 10 inches high. The most common step height, it says, is 8 inches.
Turn on music with a beat that you can step to. While you don’t have to step to the beat of a song, doing so can help regulate the rhythm of your steps and may also help you enjoy your workout more than stepping to silence. Don’t choose music with more than 128 beats per minute, since trying to match that speed can lead to injury. You may want to make your own mix of music, or select a CD made especially for step aerobics workouts.
Stand no farther than 12 inches away from the step, then stride onto the platform with your entire foot. The sole of your foot should fully connect with the step before you descend from its surface. Don't position your heel over the step's edge. Rise onto the step with your other foot once your leading foot is in place.
Step down with your leading foot so you land no farther than one shoe-length away, then step down with your other foot. To keep your weight evenly distributed across the sole of each foot, step off the platform so your toe touches the floor before your heel. After about one minute of leading with one foot, switch to the other foot.
Increase your workout's challenge by adding rhythmic arm movements, taking care not to lift your arms beyond shoulder height. Swing or pump your arms in time with your steps or try something harder, such as curling your left elbow to your right knee as you step up with your right leg, then doing the same with your right elbow and left knee.
Add rhythmic dance movements, such as hopping or bouncing, as you become used to the aerobics step.
Switch up the workout by alternating your step patterns. For example, you can repeat steps, stepping up and off the step with one foot four or five times before repeating with your other foot. You can also take additional steps once you’re on the aerobics platform, before stepping back to the ground.
Intensify the workout by adding side steps and box steps, either for a set number of reps on each side or by alternating legs.
Cool down by walking on a treadmill or riding a bicycle for a few minutes after you’ve finished your aerobics workout. After your cardio cool-down, stretch the muscles in your legs. A cool-down helps lower your heart rate, ease muscle tension and can reduce post-workout pain.
- To maximize the benefits of your workout and to avoid overdoing it, aim to work out for between 30 and 60 minutes.
- To decrease the impact on your joints, limit or eliminate lunging movements.
- Don’t look down when stepping on and off the platform, since that can cause neck and back pain.
- Talk to your doctor before beginning any workout regimen to find out if it's right for you.
- The American Council on Exercise does not recommend adding weights to your step aerobics routine because you can increase your risk of shoulder injuries.
- If something begins to hurt during your workout, stop stepping and rest.
William Henderson has been writing for newspapers, magazines and journals for more than 15 years. He served as editor of the "New England Blade" and is a former contributor to "The Advocate." His work has also appeared on The Good Men Project, Life By Me and The Huffington Post.