What Is Step Aerobics?

Step aerobics is a great way to burn fat, shape and tone, and build muscles. Information on this popular form of exercise.

Rarely can you look at a schedule of classes in a gym without finding a number of step aerobic classes.But what is step aerobics, and is it right for you?Here is some background on this popular activity, as well as how it fits into a well-rounded exercise program.

Essentially, step aerobics is a form of exercise that utilizes a platform ranging in height from four to ten inches.The platform, or step, is usually made of polyurethane and has a rubber tread.To increase height, steps are stacked one on top on another and nested.Participants combine a series of floor foot patterns with those that require stepping on and off the platform.Step exercises arenormally performed with musical accompaniment.The recommended tempo ranges from 125 to 140 beats per minute, depending on the skill levels of the participants.

Step aerobics is a form of aerobic activity that is an extension of floor aerobics.Step was developed in the late 80s, and has become the predominant aerobic class in many areas.This exercise utilizes the same principles, but adds an additional cardio element in that extra energy is expended when stepping on and off the riser.

Aerobic is defined as "in the presence of oxygen."Any exercise that requires the use of the large muscle groups, is both rhythmic, and continuous in nature is considered to be aerobic exercise.In the process, the heart, lungs, and cardiovascular system are conditioned, and begin to work more efficiently.As a result, more oxygen is delivered throughout the body and the heart muscle is strengthened.The more efficiently the heart functions, the less work it has to do to pump blood.

Aerobics were introduced in the late 1960s.Two early pioneers were Jacki Sorensen, whose program was called "Aerobic Dance," and Judi Sheppard Missett, the creator of "Jazzercise." By the mid-1970s, aerobic exercise was sweeping the nation, and women everywhere getting involved.Classes were held in gyms, local community centers, schools, and private homes.Even senior citizens were encouraged to participate.

But there were problems with these early classes.Because there were no established standards, early aerobics classes consisted of a lot of high-impact jumping and dance moves that were very hard on the joints, especially the knees.Instructors often had no training and the classes were somewhat hit or miss.Many of these instructors had primarily dance backgrounds and no real knowledge of human physiology.People who were unable to keep up, were turned off, especially larger women who felt uncomfortable and out of place.

In 1982, Jane Fonda released the first in a series of workout videos.Her program included aerobics as well as stretching and strength moves.The beauty of Fonda's tapes was that people could exercise in their homes.At the same time, low-impact aerobics classes were introduced, and instructors in clubs were beginning to be required to have training and certifications.

As early aerobic participants began to age and the cumulative effects of all the impact on their joints was materializing, step classes were introduced.These classes worked at a slower pace and concentrated on cardiovascular training as well as shaping and toning.Men and women were able to finally enjoy a workout that did not stress their joints.Step was even introduced as part of cross training for athletes.

For step aerobics to be effective, it is important to workout frequently and maintain a certain level of intensity.It is critical for the participant to work at his or her maximum heart rate for at least part of the hour, as the most fat is burned when working in this range. It is generally believed that working in one's aerobic zone for twenty minutes will cause the body to burn more fat than carbohydrates. The metabolism speeds up and remains elevated for hours after the exercise is concluded.

Step aerobics benefits the body as well.Combinations of steps work major muscle groups and result in shaping and toning of many problem areas.Many classes also include some weight work, which helps tone the arms and upper body.Cool-downs involve stretching and abdominal work.

When participating in a step aerobic class, it is essential to wear good, supportive shoes.Cross-trainers are best in that they support the foot but do not have as much tread as running shoes.The shoe should grip the step but not impede movement on the floor. Wear comfortable clothes that do not restrict motion. In any aerobic exercise, it is important to drink plenty of water so as not to dehydrate.Do not exercise for several hours after a meal.

A step class can work for individuals in every range of fitness. Intensity levels can be adapted to fit the skill level of the participant and everyone can work at his or her own pace and level of comfort. To be effective, step aerobics should be combined with a reduced calorie diet.

Before joining a class, check the credentials of the instructor.He or she should hold some sort of certification and be certified in CPR.And, before participating in any form of exercise for the first time, check with your physician.

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