Are Step-Ups a Good Exercise?

A core element of [step aerobics](https://www.livestrong.com/article/287739-the-benefits-of-step-aerobics/), the step-up exercise, offers you many health benefits. It can, for example, increase your muscle mass and decrease your body fat. Learning more about this interesting exercise and its variations will help you reach your fitness goals.
Step ups are a great leg exercise. Credit: zoranm/E+/GettyImages

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Doing step aerobics gives you a great way to get in shape, and it offers you many other benefits, including a way to improve your bone health, according to a February 2017 report in Osteoporosis International.

Read more: Names of Aerobic Steps

Step-Up Exercise Muscles

The step-up exercise can work a broad range of leg muscles. In fact, step-up exercises do well in the step-ups vs. squats debate. A December 2012 paper in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research evaluated the muscle activation caused by several variations.

These researchers tested 15 premenopausal women and found that each type of stepping movement targeted a different muscle. For example, doing a conventional stepping movement and moving in a diagonal direction targeted the hamstring. Crossing your legs while moving in a lateral direction targeted the gluteus medius. Moving laterally or moving diagonally targeted the rectus femoris.

It's easy to work your upper body during step aerobics as well. The author of a June 2019 article from the American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine noted that you can increase the difficulty of step aerobics by using hand weights. They emphasized staying safe while stepping.

For example, you should keep one foot on the ground or the step at all times. It's also important to put your foot fully on the step. Finally, never use too high of step and stop if you experience any pain.

Read more: Joints & Muscles Used in Step-Ups

Step-Up Exercise Benefits

The writers of an March 2016 report in Medical and Biological Sciences tested 30 premenopausal women and found many positive effects of step aerobics. The women did the aerobics three times a week for four months. These workouts increased their muscle mass and decreased their body fat. Amazingly, they gained 2.21 percent muscle and lost 17.75 percent fat during the study. Regularly doing step aerobics also increased their level of physical fitness.

Step aerobics can also help you get a good night's rest. The authors of a September 2014 report in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that doing step aerobics improved the sleep quality of 10 postmenopausal women with sleep difficulties. Exercising three times a week for a few months also increased the women's melatonin levels.

Doing these exercises can also improve your mental health, according to a December 2013 article in the International Journal of Sport Studies. These researchers tested 15 postmenopausal women and showed that eight weeks of step aerobics increased feelings of vitality and decreased feelings of fatigue. The women tested in this study gained physical fitness and lost body fat. Step aerobics also increased their muscle-joint flexibility.

Read more: Best Step Aerobics DVDs

Step-Up Exercise Applications

The many health benefits of step-up exercises make them useful in clinical settings. For example, physical therapists often use the forward step-up exercise in rehabilitation because it can reveal knee and hip imbalances.

Your body position during a step-up correlates well with your risk of injury, according to a February 2012 report in the Journal of Sport Rehabilitation. Identifying and correcting this issue before you get hurt can save you months of down time.

Step-up exercises can also contribute to stroke rehabilitation. The authors of an October 2013 paper in the International Journal of Physiotherapy and Research used forward, lateral and backward step-up exercises to help 15 stroke patients. People doing the step-up exercises outperformed those doing conventional balance and gain training.

The researchers believed that the weight-bearing aspect of step-up exercises played the critical role. They also noted that the widespread availability of stairs made it easy for the patients to do their rehabilitation at home.

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