Aerobics, developed by Dr. Kenneth Cooper in the early seventies, had become one of today’s most performed exercises. Aerobics (literally “with oxygen”) is basically a form of exercise to improve one’s overall fitness in muscular strength, flexibility and cardiovascular health.
One of today’s more popular forms of aerobics exercises is called step aerobics, introduced at the start of the 90s. The new form is an innovation of the old aerobics routine, this time having a step (a raised contraption, 6 to 8 inches high) where the aerobics performer will step on or off from time to time.
The stepping rates (it usually starts at 120 per minute) and the height of the steps (6 to 8 inches) are adjusted according to the exerciser’s needs and experience. These simple step-up, step-down aerobics are as beneficial as those of more intense movements, but less damaging to the joints.
The basic step involves stepping one foot first and then the other on top of the step, and stepping down on the floor using the same sequence of foot movements. There is a general agreement among aerobic enthusiasts that the “right basic” is stepping right foot up, then the left, and then stepping down to the floor with the right then the left foot.
For variations, instructors switch different moves within the sequence, like changing the “right basic” to the “left basic” without in-between moves. Usually, this is done by way of “tapping” the foot instead of shifting weights.
Another form of step is called “tap-free” or smooth step. This is done with the feet always alternating and without the confusing “taps”. The “taps” can sometimes make learning difficult for new aerobics students.
The instructor usually plans beforehand when to insert a switching move that maintains the natural rhythm of moves to simulate the natural shifting of weights on both legs like in walking. From the right basics, the instructor might insert a “knee up” (lifting a knee and during the return, switches the move to the other foot) and continue with the left basics.
Usually, a set prepared by the instructor consists of many different moves with different durations. This is executed together by the whole class and usually timed to 32 beats per set. This is done in such a way that the whole set can be switched and repeated in the other leg, mirror-like.
Basic level classes have simpler basic moves. Advanced classes sometimes incorporate dance elements like turns and stomps and whatever is in vogue. Elements are strung together in two to three routines per class. One learns these routines in class, which will be performed at the end of the class. Most instructors offer several choices for every person’s level of intensity or dance ability during the teaching of the routines.
Step aerobics helps burn calories and maintain weight. The amount of calories that are burned depend on the intensity, speed and the duration of the aerobic exercises. Step aerobics helps in endurance, prevents cardiovascular diseases, and improves gait and balance. It also provides flexibility training to enhance joints movements.
Finally, step aerobics helps maintain good mental health because the workouts are fun and enjoyable, and sessions certainly release stress. With a group session, a person’s social life is enhanced as well.