Step aerobics exploded onto the gym scene in the 1980s, and for good reason. The exercise is a proven winner for weight maintenance and cardiovascular health, and makes you feel good with a wide variety of challenging-yet-fun moves. At a moderate intensity, you can fulfill your cardio quota with 150 minutes per week on the stepper platform, per Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines. At a vigorous intensity, you can slice your workout time in half with similar results.
About Step Aerobics
Step aerobics hail from Atlanta, Georgia, where trainer Gin Miller climbed her porch steps in an attempt to heal an injured knee. She realized the value of this low-impact workout and began teaching step classes at health clubs. She soon partnered with a major sportswear manufacturer to create step platforms for mass distribution. Although the step platform provides a similar workout to running, it is gentler on the joints as one foot is always in contact with a surface, preventing all of your body weight from bearing down on a single leg.
If you're a stepping newbie, start with a 4-inch platform. Gradually work up to 8 inches, reaching for 10 inches once you become an advanced stepper. No matter how skilled you become, it's important not to choose a platform that's too tall for your physique. The knee on top should never bend more deeply than 90 degrees while you're stepping up, or else you risk injury. If you already have a knee condition, see your doctor for advice on picking a platform height, and to find out if it's safe to step at all.
Getting down with the step platform will work your core and lower body, as well as improve balance. As an aerobic activity, stepping also provides important health benefits. Your heart and lungs will work more efficiently, making you less susceptible to hypertension and heart disease. You'll have greater endurance, and be less likely to feel anxious or depressed. Doing aerobics may even extend your life; those who participate regularly tend to enjoy greater longevity.
Once step training becomes a breeze, graduate to tougher workouts by adding some advanced moves. One way is to incorporate arm movements to tone your biceps, triceps and shoulders. To avoid unnecessary stress on your body, vary your movements and keep your arms below the shoulders for the majority of your workout. You can also up the intensity by increasing speed, which is easy to do when you play faster music. However, the American Council on Exercise advises to keep it at less than 128 beats per minute. They also note that adding weights has little benefit, but greatly increases risk of injury.
- American Council on Exercise: Step Training Guidelines
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: How Much Physical Activity do Adults Need?
- American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine: How Can I Prevent Injuries During Step Aerobics?
- MayoClinic.com: Aerobic Exercise: Top 10 Reasons to Get Physical
Nina K. is a Los Angeles-based journalist who has been published by USAToday.com, Fitday.com, Healthy Living Magazine, Organic Authority and numerous other print and web publications. She has a philosophy degree from the University of Colorado and a journalism certificate from UCLA.