Though any activity that gets your heart rate elevated is technically aerobic (literally, “with oxygen”), most people consider aerobics the wide range of classes offered at the fitness club. Originally called “aerobic dance,” this mixture of dance and calisthenics has entered the mainstream with variations such as step aerobics, slide aerobics and movement classes influenced by everything from jazz to hip hop to funk. Classes also borrow from boxing, martial arts and old-school military exercises.
Aerobics classes are designed to tone muscle throughout the entire body and burn calories at the same time. They’re particularly effective for weight loss, because the focus is on continuously moving and maintaining an elevated heart rate. In addition, you’ll notice increased stamina in other healthy activities, such as walking, running, in-line skating and skiing.
Aerobics doesn’t require any previous knowledge, because the instructor (either in a class or in a home video) will guide you through all parts of the workout, including the warm-up, stretching and cool-down. Because aerobics classes range from beginner to advanced levels, there’s an option for people of every fitness level, and thanks to the large variety of classes, it’s unlikely you’ll get bored.
Many people find motivation from being in a room with others, crediting the team spirit and loud music as incentive to finish the class. The psychological boost is another plus: A recent study found that aerobic exercise helps improve mood and creativity.
If you prefer to work out at home, there are thousands of fitness videos from which to choose. Many are also available for rent at your local video store, so you can try before you buy.