We all know what an aerobics class looks like; we’ve been seeing them on TV for decades. They usually involve a room full of people dressed in spandex and leg warmers struggling to keep up with an over-enthusiastic instructor. There’s normally a lot of panting and probably some cursing. It often leaves us feeling confused and not at all likely to go out and engage in the activity ourselves!
If you stick with me, I’ll going to show you what’s great about aerobics, how it’s applicable to you, and bust some of the damaging myths that cling to aerobics like barnacles to a sunken ship. Time to set the record straight.
Aerobics is always class-based and you have to follow the instructor
Aerobics is, fundamentally, the act of increasing your heart rate beyond its normal resting state, boosting the flow of oxygen around your body and strengthening your cardiovascular system. There are hundreds of ways to achieve this! Most of them you will already have experience with – running, jogging, cycling, etc. – and some may be less familiar, such as water aerobics or using the ski machine or stepper at your local gym.
Yes, there are some great instructor-led classes out there, many of which might be a great fit for you, but my point is that it’s not the only way, and for those who prefer independence it can be a flexible and exciting way to train.
The main benefit of aerobics is losing weight
A more complex statement, but ultimately not really true. Aerobics is a great way to lose weight – when coupled with a nutrition plan, some strength training, good hydration, etc. – but weight loss isn’t the only, or even the main, benefit. Those who exercise like this regularly report huge increases in their stamina and energy levels, particularly over a sustained period of weeks. It can reduce the chance of developing diabetes and heart disease, and many aerobics addicts report a reduction in stress and anxiety levels. All of which rank highly on the assets scale alongside reducing your body fat percentage.
You need to exercise for at least an hour to have any effect
I’ve heard both this one and, contrarily, that you can’t work out for more than an hour without damaging yourself. As normal with these kinds of blanket statements, they’re both mainly wrong. The truth is somewhere in the middle. Studies vary, but most agree that exercising between 30 and 60 minutes 3–5 times per week is sufficient to help most people achieve a higher level of fitness and stamina.
As a beginner, you’ll want to start at the lower end of this scale and build up, as going too far and fast too soon can be damaging. Again, it depends entirely on your goals; for someone whose focus is weight loss then a longer session will definitely help, but a shorter, higher-intensity workout might be great for someone looking to maintain their shape and strength.
Aerobics classes are only for women
If you’ve ever googled the words “aerobics class,” no doubt you’ve been bombarded with images of young, sprightly women in their twenties with hardly a drop of sweat between them; it’s frustrating because it helps perpetuate the old stereotype that women do exercise classes and men stay in the weights section of the gym. Weight and strength training are great (in fact, more and more women are seeing the benefits) but so are aerobics, and we should be promoting them to men as a serious and enjoyable method of training.
At the end of the day, we know that a good fitness regime doesn’t just focus on one element. Seeing that aerobics covers areas such as running, cycling, and swimming – all unisex sports – we know that this old idea of “aerobics” is nonsense. Try out a variety of styles until you find what suits you – you may be surprised by what you discover.
Enjoying it isn’t important: You should just get on with it!
OK, so the great thing about aerobic exercise is the huge variety of ways you can do it. There are classes and programs out there for everyone. You can easily find something you enjoy which works to help you hit your goals.
What you need to do is to ask yourself: What motivates me? Is it competition? Then find yourself a club where they take part in regular events and challenges so you always have something new to aim for. Maybe it’s the community hub you want; an aerobics class – be it dance, Vinyasa yoga, or spinning – is a great way to meet people and exercise together. You can build a great sense of camaraderie and push each other to work harder, faster, or for longer. That support system can often help you keep on track for much longer than solo training.
The important thing is that you enjoy it! We’re all human and, particularly at a beginner level, we’re gonna hit at least a few bumps in the road. If you don’t like what you’re doing, you’ll lose inspiration fast and your willpower can fall by the wayside. Everyone has rough days and there’ll be times when powering through regardless is the best option, but if you hate going in the first place, what chance do you have? With such a choice of aerobic exercises out there, there should be no excuses – if you’re struggling, why not change it up every 6–8 weeks to keep you focused on the challenge ahead?
Which style are you most likely to try first?