While aerobic dance, step aerobics, and water fitness will appeal to different people, all of these exercises offer great cardiovascular workouts. They can help with weight loss and will make you feel more energetic all day long.
Dance classes are a popular way to get the benefits of aerobic fitness. At their best, they combine energetic music, a knowledgeable instructor, and a fast-moving, friendly environment.
You can do aerobic dance at home or at a local gym. If you attend aerobics classes, you’ll find that having a good instructor is crucial to getting a good workout. Most gyms use several trainers, so if you aren’t comfortable with one, try a different class.
- Aerobic dance classes can vary greatly in how vigorous a workout they offer. You will find classes divided into the following three categories.
- Non-impact aerobics require no jumping and emphasize the large muscles of the thighs, rather than those of the feet and calves. Non-impact aerobics also use more arm movement than high-impact aerobics. As this type is the least stressful on the joints, it has the lowest rate of injury.
- Low-impact aerobics are designed so that your feet stay close to the floor and only one foot leaves the floor at a time. It offers a brisk workout while keeping jerky movements to a minimum.
- High-impact aerobics are best suited for fit and experienced participants. Both feet leave the floor with frequent jumping. Classes use faster and more strenuous movements.
- While you may see people using hand weights while doing aerobics, they are not recommended; their use could cause arm or shoulder strain.
CHOOSING A CLASS
- For your own safety, check that the instructor has a CPR certificate and is certified by a recognized aerobic dance organization. Look for at least two years of experience.
- You should have enough room to extend your arms in all directions and to move around freely. Ideally, each participant should have about six feet by six feet of space.
- Check the floor in the aerobics area. You’re better off exercising on floors of cushioned hardwood. Don’t do aerobic exercises on concrete floors even if they are carpeted.
- Check that the workout includes a warm-up and a cool-down phase.
- Check your pulse rate before and after an aerobics class. The instructor should also stop class once, giving you time to check your pulse.
- For a good overall workout look for aerobics classes that emphasize the large muscles of the legs, hips, and back. Classes that tone specific areas are also available.
- Make sure that all exercises are explained fully so that you know the right way to do them. At least 20 minutes of the class should be a vigorous aerobic workout.
- The music should be upbeat to motivate you, but it shouldn’t be so loud that you can’t hear the instructor.
If you enter an aerobics class in progress, don’t try to keep up; go at half the pace or at whatever level you are comfortable with. Better still, wait until the next session begins and start fresh.
While it’s one of the newest aerobic sports, step aerobics classes are already popular. Step classes widen the possible range of movement by letting you step on and off a low, cushioned bench.
- Beginners may want to keep their hands on their hips, concentrating first on the basic steps. Leg movements should provide the basis of any aerobic dance exercise. Once you have mastered them, it will be easier to add arm movements.
- If you plan to do step aerobics at home, you will need to buy a special bench designed just for that purpose. Pick a model that can be adjusted to different heights and that offers a large, stable platform to step on.
- Beginners should keep the bench at a lower height, about 4 inches, while those who are more experienced can set it at 8 to 12 inches. But don’t try to do too much-setting the bench too high could put you at risk for knee injury or back strain.
- To minimize possible stress to your Achilles tendon and the arch of your foot, stand no farther than one-foot length from the bench.
- When you step off the bench, place your foot on the floor toe first. Then lower your heel to the floor before taking the next step. Doing this will distribute your weight over the whole foot and reduce stress.
- You only need to know a few basic steps to develop your own routine, and many gyms offer instructor-taught classes. If you prefer, home videos are available that teach step aerobics workouts.
- Stop exercising if you feel pain. Be especially cautious if you’ve had a previous knee injury; a mild workout might be better for you.
Look straight ahead when you bench-step. Staring down at your feet can cause neck and back pain.
- Many people are discovering that aerobic exercises are more fun when done in a pool. Besides offering the potential for a total-body workout, water aerobics are nonimpact, so they are easy on the muscles and joints.
- You’ll find it easier if you join an existing water aerobics class. But if you decide to create your own routine, be sure to work out your upper body, midsection, and legs. Use the following four exercises to build a routine.
- Arm Swirls: Stand in shoulder-deep water, then bend your knees slightly so that your arms and shoulders are fully submerged. Extend your arms on each side and rotate them forward in a circular motion, then backward. You can increase the intensity by flexing your wrists up and down; by cupping your hands to increase resistance; by making larger, more vigorous circles; or by walking or jogging as you move your arms.
- Jumping Jacks: Stand in shoulder-deep water with your arms at your sides and your feet together. Rotate your hands so that your palms face forward and then outward. Keeping your arms straight, force them up out of the water and touch them overhead. At the same time, jump up, spreading your legs in an inverted “v” position. Then turn your palms outward and bring your arms back to your sides as you bring your legs back together.
- Leg Swings: Stand in the corner of the pool, with one hand on each ledge. Lift your left leg so that it is perpendicular to your body. Swing your leg from side to side, then repeat this action with your right leg. If that’s too difficult, try doing the exercise with your knees bent.
- Leg Lifts: Stand in water that is waist-deep, with your back against the pool wall. Keeping your legs straight, lift them one at a time as high as they’ll comfortably go. For an easier workout, bend your knees.
You haven’t done it in years, right? Well, this simple exercise is more valuable than you may know.
- A piece of the clothesline is all you need to get started. Or you can buy a specially made jump rope that has weighted handles and comfortable grips.
- To measure the right length, stand with the jump rope running under both feet. The rope should be long enough to reach the level of your armpits on both sides.
- Jumping rope puts stress on your feet, knees, and thighs. Aerobic dance shoes will provide stability and cushioning, as will good tennis shoes. Never jump rope on concrete floors.
- Jumping rope can be especially rigorous for beginners; you may jump too high or overemphasize the arm movements. Instead, jump slowly at first. Wait until your breathing is comfortable and your rhythm is smooth before you pick up the pace.
- When you begin, aim for 30 to 50 turns per minute.
- Most people who jump rope find it tiring, so they jump in intervals, or sets. Jump for one to two minutes, then rest for 30 seconds. Continuing this for 15 minutes will provide an excellent aerobic workout.
- If you are jumping rope indoors, you’ll quickly find that a high-ceilinged room is essential. Also, be sure the room has good ventilation.
- Try skipping one foot at a time or even using fancy arm work if you get bored with ordinary jumping.
When jumping rope, you don’t have to jump high to get a good workout. In fact, jumping only an inch or two off the ground will reduce your risk of injury.
THE TV WORKOUT
There is no reason to join a gym if you’re comfortable exercising to an aerobics tape your TV.
- Your local video store will have several types to choose from. If you are new to working out, choose a tape meant for beginners. It should teach non-impact aerobics.
- A good beginner’s tape will have spots where the instructor stops and tells you to check your heart rate. There should also be rest periods. If you are just starting, don’t make the mistake of following the tape too closely; rest when you need to rest.