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Step aerobics

Sarah Horrocks
by Sarah Horrocks Published on 12 August 2008
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Step aerobics first started in the USA, and both classes and video workouts achieved massive popularity in the 1980s thanks in no small part to celebrities like Jane Fonda. Step aerobics requires nothing but a step and maybe a mat, and you can easily work out in your home or at your local gym with an instructor.

Step aerobics first started in the USA, and both classes and video workouts achieved massive popularity in the 1980s thanks in no small part to celebrities like Jane Fonda. Step aerobics requires nothing but a step and maybe a mat, and you can easily work out in your home or at your local gym with an instructor.

The idea

An average step class lasts from 30 to 45 minutes and levels of intensity vary. It’s often done in gyms or sports halls, in groups, to rhythmic music. You have your own non-slip step in front of you, which can be adjusted to the intensity of the exercises.
Classes consist of learning and doing a choreographed routine of steps (up/down, forward/back/side etc.) and also steps around your step (mambo, turns etc.) From the most basic steps to more complicated ones (e.g. double step touch), there are endless routines out there so you don't get bored.
Although the movements are essentially focused on the legs, your arms shouldn't stay still and throughout a session you should move them by crossing them or raising them in the air, etc.

The benefits
- It uses up lots of energy. Step aerobics uses lots of muscle groups and it gives you a good high-intensity cardio workout. It burns between 400/500 calories an hour!
- It tones your muscles. Your legs get a tough workout from climbing the step, the arms follow each movement and you tone your body all over.
- It improves coordination and posture. You need to synchronise your arm and leg movements in time with the music, make sure that you don’t mix up the movements or miss the step!
- It strengthens endurance as the cardio-vascular system is used intensively. It’s excellent for improving breathing and your overall physical condition.
- It's a fun sport: you work out to music, follow the group and are so busy concentrating on the routines that you don't have time to think about the effort required!

The downsides

Intensive and sometimes brutal, especially when the rhythm changes, step aerobics can put your heart to the test, especially if you're not used to intensive exercise.

Bouncing in all directions, flexing the knees and stepping can be tough on the joints and tendons of the lower limbs.
Like all intensive sports done inside, it can also cause overheating because of the lack of space.

Tips
- Set up your step correctly. Place it in front of you, a good distance from others and check that it is fixed together well. Adjust the height according to your level.
- Wear suitable shoes that are high to protect your ankles during changes of direction, with cushioning to absorb shock from jumps and steps.
- Drink plenty. To stop yourself from overheating, drink two or three sips of water every 10 to 15 minutes and wet your top if you're hot.
- Take care with your movements. Raise your feet high so as not to hit the step and place your feet flat on the step, avoiding the edges.
- Do some cross-training along with step aerobics such as swimming or aquaerobics, which are less aggressive on your back and joints.
- Stick to your level. Take things slowly at first, don't push yourself too hard and listen to your instructor.

by Sarah Horrocks

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