The History of Aerobics

Women exercising in aerobics class
Aerobics classes help prevent health problems like heart disease. (Image: Jacob Ammentorp Lund/iStock/GettyImages)

You know exercise is good for you, but it's easier than ever to be lazy because technology makes life much more convenient. To combat this increase in inactivity, aerobics classes became popular and helped spur an exercise craze that's lasted for decades.

Birth of Aerobics

The concept of aerobics stems from a book published in 1968, written by Dr. Kenneth Cooper. In the book, Dr. Cooper explains that aerobic exercise helps prevent disease. He explains that in order to live a healthy life, you must exercise regularly.

Cooper went on to create a research laboratory where he studied his theory and found proof that aerobic exercise, such as bike riding and running, helps reduce the risk of disease. Armed with this knowledge, aerobics classes that organized exercise in groups began to appear to help people reap the benefits.

Dance Fitness

Jacki Sorensen is credited with taking Dr. Cooper's knowledge and synthesizing it into fun and effective aerobic workout routines. Sorensen started by teaching dance classes and slowly grew those classes into choreographed workout routines. Incorporating dance made the workouts more interesting than simply pedaling a bike or running on a treadmill.

From there, aerobics classes grew steadily with different fitness personalities offering their own take. Judi Shepherd Missett developed Jazzercise in the 1970s. She also began as a dance instructor but decided to make her classes more fitness-focused and put less emphasis on proper dance technique.

Workout Videos

Jane Fonda's high impact aerobics videos were a hit in the 1980s. Whereas exercise had previously been limited to classes, these workout videos made aerobics easily accessible to anyone with a video player. The videos were very popular because they combined the entertaining and high-energy instruction of a group class with the convenience of an at-home workout.

Workout videos have since evolved with series like P90X and Insanity bringing more intense workouts to your home. These videos push the limit of a home workout, using simple equipment like dumbbells and pull-up bars to put you through multiple full-body routines.

Aerobics Evolution

In the 1980s, Gin Miller developed step aerobics as a low-impact alternative to the dance fitness classes that were growing in popularity. Her classes exploded in popularity because she could accommodate people with lower levels of fitness and those with injuries.

From this point, group fitness classes began to explode in creativity and popularity. Health clubs and gyms began offering group classes to members. Group training studios popped up and franchise their workouts. Aerobic workout videos exploded in popularity as well, some of them even being featured on cable networks.

Boxing, kickboxing, dance and bootcamp-style workouts are all extremely popular. Spin studios also attract members and attention. Over time, these focused workouts have fused into each other and HIIT workouts developed, which are a combination of bodyweight movements, weightlifting and cardio exercises. The boutique fitness trend happening now emphasizes studios that offer just aerobics classes, rather than traditional gym memberships.

Technology and Aerobics

You can also stream group exercise classes right to your phone or television at home to experience a live workout instead of a pre-recorded video. If you need an aerobics workout on-the-go, there are apps available for download that show you how to do exercises and guide you through a workout.

Web services like Classpass help you access the different group exercise studios in your area so that you can find your favorite. Technology helps foster new, creative workouts as well as make it easier to access them.

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