Stepping up and down on a riser to the beat of jamming tunes helps you stay fit and manage your weight. A step class can burn serious calories — exactly how many you burn in 20 minutes of class depends on your size and intensity. Twenty minutes of any cardiovascular exercise, including step aerobics, is unlikely to burn enough extra calories to make a big contribution to weight loss, however, but it could stave off weight gain.
Step Aerobics 101
A step aerobics workout isn't much different from other group fitness aerobics options. A session consists of moving with a group of other exercisers, performing motions that work the muscles while elevating your heart rate — all set to music chosen to energize you and make the workout more fun. Step aerobics sessions tend to put more emphasis on working the muscles of your calves, thighs and rear than do many other options of floor-based dance aerobics.
The main difference is in the use of a step — a plastic platform that you step or hop on and off several times during your workout. Steps can be 4 inches, 8 inches or 10 inches high, notes the American Council on Exercise. More advanced exercisers can opt for the higher step to increase intensity.
Calories are a measure of energy, the same way kilometers are a measure of distance. Your body takes in energy in the form of food and burns that energy throughout the day. If you consume more calories than you burn, your body stores the energy for later use. If you burn more than you consume, your body accesses the stored energy to make up the difference.
Account for Variables
It's impossible to get a precise figure on how many calories you burn in a given workout. Factors like your personal metabolism, air temperature and time of day will raise or lower your calorie consumption for any given session. However, a calorie calculator can help you estimate the calories you'll burn on average over the course of several step aerobics sessions.
What You Burn
Health resource website Harvard Health Publications provides data on the calories burned by activities ranging from cross-country skiing to sitting on your couch. According to Harvard Health, a 155-pound woman will burn approximately 173 calories during 20 minutes of step aerobics, depending on her level of effort. Heavier people will burn more calories. Lighter people will burn fewer.
Keep in mind that to lose one pound of fat, you need to burn off 3,500 calories more than you consume. If you're eating just enough to maintain your weight, that means even if you do 20 minutes of step aerobics per day — every day of the week — you'll drop just 0.3 pounds. Go a little longer most days if weight loss is your goal.