Aerobics is a high-energy exercise class set to music. It will get your heart pumping, help you burn off body fat and improve your body's strength, shape and tone. Plus, it can be great fun!
What is aerobics good for?
Aerobics is a gym class, set to music and led by a qualified instructor who takes you through a variety of structured movements that raise your heart rate and get blood and oxygen flowing more quickly. Aerobics includes a range of movements and exercises that work on all areas of your body, from gentle jogging on the spot to tummy crunches.
A regular workout will:
strengthen your heart muscle and lungs by making them work harder; with regular exercise, you can lower your blood pressure and cholesterol
stimulate the circulation of blood and lymph around your body, so help strengthen your immune system
burn calories and reduce your body fat
raise your serotonin levels, stimulate your brain to release endorphins and give you a natural "high", easing any stress or anxiety
increase your strength so you are less prone to injury
improve the shape and tone of your body.
When you undertake any exercise class, choose the right one for your level of fitness. You'll usually find aerobics classes at beginner, intermediate and advanced levels.
If you are, or think you might be pregnant, stick to low-impact aerobics; you can probably find a class specially for mums-to-be.
Don't do aerobics if:
you have a history of heart or respiratory problems
you have problems with your joints
you have recently had surgery, or are prone to or recovering from injury.
Consult your doctor if you have any other medical condition.
What to expect from aerobics
Wear comfortable clothes that allow you to move freely, such as leggings and a t-shirt. Trainers with sweat-absorbing socks are a good idea, too. It's also a good idea to take off your make-up beforehand to allow your skin to breathe.
An aerobics class usually lasts 45 minutes to one hour. The instructor will take you through different levels of movement. You'll start with gentle, low-intensity warm-up exercises including stretches as well as some light jogging, and gradually work up to high-intensity exercises that will help you burn calories. You will get quite out of breath and feel your heart working. If you feel any pain or are unhappy with a movement, stop.
Your instructor will then take you back down in intensity to gradually lower your heart rate. Some classes include a few minutes of rest or guided meditation to relax and calm before you leave.
Be prepared for some potentially complicated routines; some instructors may also use jargon you aren't familiar with. Try not to get self-conscious if you don't do everything in time first time, or kick as high as the person next to you, and start to grapevine when you should be diamond-stepping. You'll soon catch on, so you might as well try to find it hilarious in the meantime. Think of your serotonin levels.
After a good aerobics class, you should feel energised (if a bit tired out). If you haven't done the class before, you might feel a bit sore a few days later. This is because your body has worked some dormant muscles; the achiness will ease off.
You can go straight back into your day afterwards; just leave yourself time to shower as you'll sweat in the class. Drink plenty of water.
Different kinds of aerobics
Apart from different classes for different levels of fitness, there are variations out there:
High-impact aerobics: This very energetic form of exercise features movements that lift you off the ground: jumping, hopping and jogging. It is very vigorous. It's probably a class to graduate to rather than start with as you need to be quite fit. It can also be demanding on your joints; not a good option if yours aren't strong.
Low-impact aerobics: This exercise focuses on floor-based exercises, stretches and movements. While still giving you a good workout, this more sedate form of aerobics doesn't put so much pressure on your joints. Because it is less vigorous, low-impact aerobics is especially good for pregnant women, older people, anyone who is overweight, people who have weak joints, and people recovering from injury.
Body conditioning: This class focuses on intensive, but low-impact exercises which tone, shape and strengthen muscles. Classes may also include some light, high-repetition weight training, and often focus on particular areas such as "bums and tums".
"Kickfit" or kick-aerobics: A variation on high-impact aerobics, a kick aerobics class incorporates martial-arts style kicking and other moves to the exercise routines, but is non-contact.
Step aerobics: Step aerobics combines low-impact and body-conditioning exercises with a raised platform or "step" to intensify the workout for your lower body. Step aerobics is particularly beneficial for developing and strengthening the muscles in your legs, spine and hips, also works on your co-ordination, and is good for strengthening bones. Step aerobics can be pretty tough and you can "feel it working" (we're sure you know what we mean); you should feel results quite quickly.
Dance aerobics: A mixed-impact aerobics class with a dance slant -- from jazzercise to aeropop -- is a great way to have fun and shape up at the same time. The movements and exercises depend on the kind of dance that inspired the class -- maybe more ballet, bellydancing or bhangra. The class will involve a similar ratio of warm up, high-intensity and cool-down exercises as other classes.
Body pump: Body pump is one of a range of branded classes that are run in exactly the same way, and involve the same exercises across the UK, and in gyms across the world.