"Yes, I actually do like aerobics and all forms of exercise," says Debra
Isn't that what non-exercisers always wonder? Besides wanting to get in
shape, why would someone spend three, five, or even seven days a week jumping
up and down, stretching their muscles, and blotting the sweat from their brow?
"I am committed to fitness out of a need to be healthful," says Parsow.
Research consistently shows that aerobic exercise is important to health.
Recent studies report low cardiorespiratory fitness to be a risk factor in
mortality -- comparable to smoking.
Lots of people are taking advantage of the health benefits of aerobics,
however. According to the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA), 24
million people participate each year.
Aerobics is a term commonly given to exercise or dance classes that are
performed to music at a high tempo. It is primarily for cardiovascular benefits
and improved coordination.
"There are many modes or types of exercise. It would be a shame to do just
one, when there are so many opportunities to have fun while you are exercising,"
says certified trainer Robert Flichel.
Aerobic exercise is when you sustain a methodical intensity level of activity
and hit your target heart rate for at least 15 minutes. It's good for your
heart, helps you control your weight, and can even increase your energy and
improve your mood. Three times a week is a good marker to aim for, but it's
OK to start at twice per week until you become fit.
But you don't need to be in shape in order to start, Parsow says. Just
start with something you like and get others involved for support if you need
What's hot in aerobics today? Kickboxing and sport-aerobics are in, according
to certified instructor Mindi Boysen. Kickboxing is a martial arts-style workout.
Sport-aerobics refers to competition.
Most people think of aerobics as a group activity done with an instructor
or in front of a videotape, but aerobics encompasses a lot of different activities.
They include walking, biking, jogging, swimming, and dancing. Many people
make up their own routines with steps and movements they enjoy.
If you love to exercise, a career in fitness may be for you. If you're
going to spend a significant part of your week working on your physical fitness,
you might as well get paid for it. You can be an instructor at a gym or health
club, a personal trainer, or even open your own fitness center.
If you're serious about a career in fitness, you should seek out training
and certification through an association. All offer training and certification
programs in a variety of disciplines for a modest cost. Denise Howard of California
warns that even if you earn a good hourly rate, "you can't teach eight hours
a day. It is very easy to get burned out."
"The first time I taught a class, my mouth went dry and I forgot everything
I knew!" says Steve Wagge. "But all the practice paid off and I finished the
class under automatic pilot. It takes experience to be good at this."
Aerobics classes can be found at local gyms, YMCAs, and schools. They consist
of three basic components set to music: a warm-up (essential to prevent injuries),
a period of greater intensity (for cardiovascular benefits), and a cool-down
(to prevent sore muscles and ease your heart rate back to normal).
"Don't go overboard right away. You will get burned out," advises Boysen.
"Also, pick something you really enjoy. If you like being in a classroom for
aerobics, find a gym that has a wide variety of classes and times that work
for you. Maybe you can just pay a guest fee per class, instead of joining
Boysen emphasizes, "Everyone must start somewhere. If it ever gets too
easy to do, then it is not worth doing it. The key is to provide the body
with enough stress that it becomes stronger."
It's a good idea to visit your doctor before you begin an aerobics program.
The APMA warns that an aerobics workout can be very vigorous. "Exercise your
common sense as well as your muscles," it advises.
Foot injuries are common, according the APMA. Be careful to pick out a
shoe designed specifically for aerobics. Choose a certified instructor, screen
your classes, routines, and exercise videos to match your fitness level, and
make sure the surface you exercise on has some give. Watch out for knee and
back injuries. If you feel pain, stop.
Sport-aerobics is on its way to becoming an Olympic gymnastic event. But
in the meantime, why not try the Association of National Aerobic Championships
Worldwide. There's a level of competition for everyone.
Aerobics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA)
200-15250 Ventura Blvd.
American College of Sports Medicine
P.O. Box 1440
American Council on Exercise
The Cooper Institute for Aerobics Research
12330 Preston Rd.
Aerobics Instructor Manual: The Resources for Fitness Professionals,
Robert L. Goldstein, Richard T. Cotton
Gatorade Sports Science Institute
Fitness articles and information
Loads of fitness tips
The mother of all fitness link lists
Find aerobic movement patterns, music, and an aerobics dictionary