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History of Aerobic Dance

author image K. Gregg Elliott
K. Gregg Elliott is a conservationist, writer, dancer and exerciser who has been writing since 1998. She has been published in "California Coast & Ocean," "Bay Nature," "BARK" and "Best Women's Travel Writing 2007." Elliott has a Master of Arts in science policy from George Washington University and a bachelor's degree in biology from University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
History of Aerobic Dance
A group doing aerobics in the park at a health benefit. Photo Credit Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Dance exercise is a form of aerobics that has been popular almost since the inception of aerobics in the late 1960s. With its constant movement to a music soundtrack, the aerobics exercise form almost begged for the incorporation of dance moves. Innovative instructors have never failed to incorporate the latest dance moves into popular exercise in creative ways.

In the Beginning

Dr. Kenneth Cooper, founder of Cooper Aerobics in Texas, coined the term “aerobics” in 1968. His 13 years in the US Army and US Air Force developing military fitness tests and working with NASA in researching and developing the astronauts' conditioning program led to his first book, "Aerobics." Written after Cooper left the military, his groundbreaking book has sold more than 30 million copies worldwide. Cooper provided the Oxford English dictionary definition of his term in 1986: “Method of physical exercise for producing beneficial changes in the respiratory and circulatory systems by activities which require meeting a modest increase in oxygen intake and so can be maintained.”

Aerobics Classes and Music

The first essential ingredient of an aerobics class is music, which is one reason that dance aerobics has enjoyed a such a long run of popularity in the United States. A typical aerobics class involves warm-up and stretches, approximately 20 to 30 minutes of exercise to raise the heart rate to a desired range (depending on health and age), then a cool-down with stretching and sometimes body sculpting.

Dance and Aerobics

According to Jill Barkers of the IDEA Fitness Association, aerobics classes added a dance element beginning in the late 1970s, but “Jazzercise” began a decade prior to that. Roughly mirroring a dance class, the aerobics dancers follow an instructor leading a series of dance and exercise moves. The variety of aerobic dance has grown with each passing decade to incorporate the latest styles of music and dance.

Benefits of Aerobic Exercise

All of the benefits of aerobic exercise accrue during aerobic dance: an increase in cardiopulmonary efficiency, stronger lungs and heart, better circulation, lower cholesterol, stress relief and improved self-confidence. Such exercise bestows maximum benefits when participants dance a minimum of two to three times per week.

Dance Aerobic Styles

According to the Jazzercise website, jazz dancer Judy Sheppard Missett founded Jazzercise in 1969, and it has become a worldwide phenomenon, taught in 32 countries. After Jazzercise, dance aerobics spread and grew to include a wide variety of musical and dance styles: country, Broadway show tunes, hip-hop, and even African dance. Zumba is the first new dance aerobics genre of the 21st century. As other forms of aerobic exercise, such as step, indoor cycling and kick boxing have gained in popularity, dance aerobics fell behind. Beto Perez, a Colombian native and the founder of Zumba, has reinvigorated dance aerobics by infusing Latin music, rhythms and moves into his high-energy classes.

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