You’ve been watching television commercials touting the benefits of step aerobics for decades. It’s true. I checked. Step aerobics “revolutionized” the fitness industry in the 1980s, according to The American Council on Exercise. Since then, you’ve seen many really, really enthusiastic and really, really fit men and women shout at you that you should get off the couch and start exercising. Most of them, it seems, were in the middle of a step aerobics routine while they were shouting at you.
Did you listen? Did you and your friends join a gym so you could participate in the “next big thing.” Maybe you didn’t because you thought it was a fad. It turns out, though, that the ‘fad’ is really, really good for your health. In fact, it’s not a fad.
Benefits of Step Aerobics:
- It’s an excellent way to improve your cardiovascular fitness.
- It’s a great way to strengthen your leg muscles.
- It’s one of the best weight-loss exercises among gym activities.
- It’s a very enjoyable activity, particularly when music is played.
- It’s a flexible exercise because you can step onto and off a platform that’s anywhere from a few inches off the ground to much more than a foot off the ground if you’re a really good athlete.
The most important thing to know about step aerobics is differentiating high-impact step aerobics from low-impact step aerobics. High-impact step aerobicsinvolves jumping onto and off a raised platform from the floor with both feet. Low-impact step aerobics involves stepping onto and off the raised platform one foot at a time.
Both step aerobic routines require you to continuously exercise for at least several minutes. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that healthy people do continuous, aerobic exercises such as running, bicycling, walking, swimming and step aerobics 20 to 60 minutes per day three to five days per week.
What kind of step aerobics routine should you do? The American Council on Exercise details its recommendations in its “Step Training Guidelines” report. “Platform height is dependent on the exerciser’s level of aerobic fitness, current skill with step training and degree of knee flexion when the knee is fully loaded while stepping up,” the report says. “Deconditioned individuals should begin on 4-inch steps, while highly skilled and experienced steppers can use 10-inch steps. The most common height is 8 inches.”
The American Council on Exercise also gives detailed recommendations on proper technique, including your posture, how close you should be to the platform, how to avoid injury, how to use your arms, and even the tempo of the music you are listening to. “Music tempos above 128 beats per minute (bpm) are not recommended,” it advises.
If you participate in a step aerobics exercise program for a significant amount of time, your legs can become really strong, according to “Choosing the Right Exercise,” a report by The Merck Manual Home Health Handbook. The report says that step aerobics has a particularly beneficial impact on your upper leg muscles, including your quadriceps and hamstrings. The report, though, advises that you stop exercising if your muscles become sore. In that case, you should rest for about 48 hours and try again.
Trying to do step aerobics regularly can have a great impact on your weight. High-impact step aerobics is the second best weight-loss exercise among gym activities, according to Harvard Health Publications. A 155-pound person will burn 744 calories per hour doing step aerobics. That’s more than one-fifth of a pound (you lose one pound when you burn 3,500 calories). Heavier people burn more calories.
Low-impact step aerobics burns 520 calories per hour in 155-pound people. That means you will lose slightly more than one pound in seven hours of exercising. So what are you waiting for?
The bottom line is that perhaps you should listen the next time you see and hear someone on television doing a step aerobics routine while he or she is shouting at you to exercise more and join a gym.