What Is Hi-Lo Aerobics?

Hi-lo aerobics classes are a more challenging version of the traditional step class.
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Aerobic exercise is a style of physical movement designed to increase heart rate and improve oxygenation throughout the body. Hi-low, or high-low, aerobics classes combine traditional, low-impact aerobics movements with higher impact strength-training movements to create a comprehensive fitness routine that supports heart health and weight loss.

About Hi-Lo Impact

Traditional aerobics relies on low-impact exercises that gradually increase and then sustain the heart rate at approximately 50 to 75 percent of its maximum capacity, as calculated by subtracting your age from 220. Low-impact aerobics focuses on lower cardiovascular load over a longer duration, a technique that is suitable for beginners and reduces injury risk. High-impact aerobic exercises push the heart rate closer to 80 to 85 percent of its maximum and typically use higher cardiovascular loads for shorter durations of time. A hi-low aerobic class combines each type of exercise into a single class so that participants can combine periods of more manageable low-impact movements with periods of more challenging high-impact movements.

Types of Classes

There are two approaches to a hi-lo aerobics class. A class may offer choreography that can be individually adapted to both high- and low-impact forms, and individuals in the class choose whether they would prefer the high- or low-impact version of the movement. For example, some students may opt for walk in place for 30 seconds while others opt to run in place for 30 seconds. Another type of hi-lo aerobics class combines each type of exercise and all participants follow the same choreography. For example, the class may include low-impact heel lifts, side-steps or knee touches with high-impact jumping jacks, lunges and jumping knee lifts.


Hi-lo aerobics classes are an effective means of burning calories. While 30 minutes of low-impact aerobics burns 205 calories in a 155-pound person, 30 minutes of high-impact aerobics burns 260. A strictly high-impact aerobics class may be too intense for beginners, but a combination of high- and low-impact exercises provides efficient calorie burning without the intimidation of a high-impact class. Hi-lo combination classes also allow you to choose the best intensity level for your current level of fitness. For example, if the class is performing jumping jacks, you may opt to march in place instead if you are just returning to fitness after an illness or injury.


A 1990 survey found that high-impact aerobics carry a 35 percent injury rate compared to a lower 24 percent injury rate for low-impact aerobics classes. Even if the high-impact moves are combined with low-impact moves, there is still a higher risk of injury during the high-impact section of a hi-lo aerobics class. If you've never taken an aerobics class, start with an intro level class so you can learn the proper form for all the movements before you commit to a faster-paced hi-lo program.

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