When athletic trainer and former competitive gymnast Gin Miller introduced the concept of step aerobics in 1989, little did she know she'd give rise to a fitness craze that would persist for decades. This workout, which involves listening to a steady music beat while stepping up and down and dancing around a portable step, proved fun, inspiring and great for fat loss.
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Do the workout in a fitness center, under the guide of a skilled instructor and with the energy of group, or experience it in the comfort of your own home in front of a video screen. Regardless of how and where you do step, it can help you lose weight, but not necessarily in one specific area.
Even if you carry excess weight in your lower body, step and other lower-body exercises can't target this region directly. But, as you burn calories — and watch what you eat — you'll slim down all over, including in your butt, hips and thighs.
One of the ways to increase the number of calories you expend daily is to increase physical activity. And, burning calories helps you achieve a deficit to lose weight. Step aerobics offers a perfect option. In 30 minutes of working at a low-impact level, a 165-pound person can burn more than 260 calories. Up the intensity to high-impact, and burn almost 400 calories.
A low-impact routine on the step may include choreography along with simple step ups, alternating knees and turn steps, but excludes jumps or hops onto the bench. For such a workout, you might seek out a video, like Kathy Smith's Timeless Collection, that is suitable for all levels.
A high-impact routine will have you jumping, spinning and sashaying around the bench. An example of such a video is Cathe Friedrich's Rhythmic Step and Interval Max. Master the basics of step aerobics prior to trying such an intense workout, even if you're after the higher calorie burn to help you drop lower body fat.
When seeking out a step aerobics routine for fat loss, look for one that keeps you moving for 30 to 45 minutes. This maximizes your calorie burn and fat loss potential. Some routines have a lot of starting and stopping, which allows your heart rate to drop, so they're less effective for fat loss.
It takes about 3,500 calories burned to lose 1 pound. If you do step three or four times per week, for 30 minutes each, you'll burn between 780 and 1,600 extra calories. This gives you a head start to a solid caloric deficit and fat loss.
Read more: Toning Exercises Using a Step
Tone the Lower Body
While exercises that work the lower body don't specifically burn fat from the area, they do increase the amount of lean muscle you carry. More lean muscle means you'll look tighter and leaner when you do drop pounds, plus it raises your metabolism slightly so it's easier to lose weight — and keep it off. Use your own body weight or grab a pair of dumbbells, not for the faster moving aerobics class, but to use with the step to strengthen and build muscle afterward.
Lower-body exercises you can do on the step include:
Include these exercises as part of a total-body strength-training program; you still want to train your upper body, even when your interest is in losing fat from your bottom half. Use the step to do moves such upper body moves, such as bent-over rows, triceps dips and push-ups.
Read more: The Best Step Workout Videos
Combine the calories you burn in step with a lower calorie eating plan and you've got a weight-loss win. Trim 250 to 500 calories a day to round out your calorie deficit to lose between one and two pounds per week. Easy ways to cut back on the calories you consume include:
- Cut out sugary drinks, including sodas and fancy coffees.
- Eliminate (or cut way back on) alcohol.
- Trade processed snack foods, such as chips and bars, for whole food options, such as cut-up veggies and whole-grain crackers.
- Eat fresh fruit instead of cookies, brownies or pie for dessert.
- Go for whole grains over white, processed carbs.
- Choose lean cuts of meat, such as chicken breast and white fish, instead of fatty brisket, ribs, hot dogs and chicken thighs.