ΤDiscover your childhood: Have you ever entered with your parents enthusiastically climbing mini-platforms with the TV knocking in front of them and a VHS case on the table? Maybe both laces and foot warmers were part of the equation.
Yes, it is a beloved (and perhaps funny) memory for people all over the world.
The reason? The aerobics step, the exercise technique that brought storms in the late 1980s and early 1990s and brought people together near and far, in studios and at home. And now, about 30 years later, the classic cardio shape is blooming once again.
The revival of step aerobics
What does it mean that so many parents love to preach? Everything that circulates comes around. This also applies to step aerobics.
“It never went out of style in some areas,” says Fit Outside the Box teacher Karla Luster. Living in Richmond, Virginia, the lessons have remained popular. “So I think every time people add their own flavor, it makes the ‘old’ new again.”
It is this emphasis on creating the old new that resonates with Judson MacDonald, CPT, Learning and Development Specialist for Les Mills. “This is no longer Aunt Viv’s training,” he exclaims.
Gene Miller began training with step aerobics in Atlanta in the late 1980s after her doctor recommended that you move up and down a milk cage to repair a knee injury. In the decades since then, training has evolved. When Les Mills’s BODYSTEP was released in Auckland, New Zealand, it incorporated research-based motion patterns (which continue to change every few months). In addition, modern aerobic aerobics — like many current boutique workouts — is infinitely modifiable, making it accessible to people of all ages and abilities.
“Involvement through choices is a key ingredient in keeping every type of fitness moving while having fun,” says MacDonald. “You can go with friends and do different levels with each other while enjoying the same experience together.”
This ability to move together, and the community that surrounds the workout, is part of what drives the trend. “I definitely think the pandemic helped – people needed some new ways to stay fit and focused at home,” says Luster. “You do not have time to get bored while pressing.”
And people crave social exercise, says MacDonald. “We find motivation when we move with others and share this experience together.”
The benefits of step aerobics
Step aerobics is one of the most classic forms of functional training. “It mimics the daily routine of walking, climbing stairs, getting out of the car and escaping the dog’s evil on the sidewalk,” says MacDonald. “When we place these daily functional movements in the rhythm of the music and one step, we create a fun, effective and humble, dare I say it, workout that benefits everyone.”
Most classes focus specifically on the lower body. “It strengthens our buttocks, quadriceps and leg muscles,” says MacDonald. Les Mills BODYSTEP, for example, sets rhythmic steps and strengthening movements like langs and squats in optimistic music.
MacDonald points out that step aerobics can also improve joint coordination and stability, especially for beginners. But do not confuse it: The aerobic step is not a simple workout for the less active. “Anyone who trains agility, sits in a chair, lives on the third floor of an apartment building, walks a pet or balances on one leg, will benefit from this type of training,” says MacDonald.
As true as this is, Luster admits that step aerobics are often more popular with women. “It’s all ages now — even old-school aerobics is appealing to women ages 20 to 65 and older,” she says.
How To Exercise At Home Aerobics
As attractive and satisfying as aerobics classes are, not everyone is ready, capable or willing to go to a studio. Fortunately, step aerobics thrives at home.
“All you need is a stepladder — I call it a stepper,” says Luster. “The best way to step safely is on carpeted floors, with sneakers and preferably a shock-absorbing bench.” Recommends the old Reebok deck or Les Mills SMARTSTEP System, which has hoists that lock and aim lines for foot placement.
Once you have your bench, Luster says that the lifts (which can make the step more difficult, thanks to the extra lifting) are optional.
To begin the step, MacDonald recommends that you first familiarize yourself with the training moves. “At the basic level, you can start with a kitchen mat or mat to get your feet moving to the beat of the music,” he says. “For example, take the basic step (up, up, down, down) —you can practice walking on the mat and doing it behind the mat. It creates a vision so that your brain learns to say, “Yes! I am fearless and I will not stumble! ‘”.
Once you feel comfortable with the turn, put your stepper to work. You can post any number of step-ups on YouTube (including Luster’s), Instagram, or online programs such as Charlee Atkins’s Le Sweat TV or LES MILLS +.
But let this be your warning: Once you start pressing, you will probably never want to stop. “Once you find an exercise you love, you will never find it should “Exercise one day in your life,” says Luster. “The consequence is to find the exercise that you absolutely love or at least can look forward to.”
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