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The History of Aerobics

author image Kelsey Casselbury
Kelsey Casselbury has a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Penn State-University Park and formal education in fitness and nutrition. Collins is an experienced blogger, editor and designer, who specializes in nutrition, fitness, weddings, food and parenting topics. She has been published in association and consumer publications, along with daily newspapers such as The Daily Times (Salisbury, Md.)
The History of Aerobics
Step aerobics is a popular version of the exercise that was introduced in 1968. Photo Credit: John Foxx/Stockbyte/Getty Images

When you are exercising at a low intensity for a long period of time, you are participating in aerobics. Aerobics is exercising rhythmically for 15 minutes or longer while maintaining 60 to 80 percent of your maximum heart rate. Its benefits include weight control, increased stamina and psychological benefits, such as an improved mood and lessened anxiety. The history of aerobics begins in the 1960s.

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In the 1960s, Dr. Kenneth H. Cooper developed a system of exercises to prevent coronary artery sickness. The system was developed at the Air Force Hospital and originally intended for those in the military. He termed it “aerobics” in a book of the same name that he published in 1968. After publishing, dancer Jackie Sorenson developed dance routines that aimed at improving cardio fitness, which were coined aerobic dance.


From 1978 to 1987, the number of people doing aerobics in the United States increased from an estimated 6 million to 19 million, according to In 1983, a new variety of aerobics appeared when Howard and Karen Schwartz developed a competitive sport, which was deemed sport-aerobics. In 1984, the sport fitness international organization created the first national aerobic championship. Competitors perform a one-minute, 45-second routine done to music. In 1996, the name sport-aerobics was changed to Gymnastique, according to

In 1989, competitive gymnast Gin Miller introduced step aerobics to the world when she used her porch steps to rehabilitate her knee with low-impact stepping set to music. She sold the idea to Reebok in 1989, and she is now considered the creator of Step Aerobics, according to website Healthy Exercise World.


Since making its debut in 1968, aerobics has evolved throughout its history into various versions, such as those already mentioned like step aerobics, as well as others such as Jazzercise, which incorporates jazz music and dance aerobics. Other types of dancing are often used, including salsa or ballet. Water aerobics is also popular with people who have joint problems or have arthritis.


Just as with many other forms of fitness, aerobics has been subject to criticism. The chief complaint is that aerobics is not a complete form of exercise, according to fitness website Other critics state that aerobics could cause injury and is not effective in reducing obesity. However, as aerobics has become a mainstream fitness technique, criticism has decreased.

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