Focus On: Step Aerobics

Let’s take it back now.

image Source

For today’s Focus On post, I’m choosing another one near and dear to my heart, and an old staple in the fitness scene.

My fascination with step started when I was 7 years old. My mom would take me with her to her step class –in shorts with a leotard OVER the shorts- and I would be in the corner playing along. Since I took dance classes, I had no prob picking up the combos and always looked forward to taking classes with mom. She was kind of a step fanatic. We had a step at the house, and sometimes her friend would come over and they would do a step DVD and lay by the pool on the days they didn’t have to work. Of course, I liked being “one of the girls,” even though I chose swimming over tanning at the time 😉

After my mom stopped stepping, I didn’t really see it again until I moved with the Pilot to Fayetteville, NC and started taking classes at the base gym. The base gym was one of the coolest participation environments I’d seen- everyone was really into fitness and the classes were crazy packed. I arrived early for my favorite spin class one day and caught a glimpse of the step class going on beforehand – it was unlike any of the 80s or 90s-style sporty step I’d seen. There were at least 40-50 people in there, many of whom were using two steps, the moves were more dance-y than athletic, and everyone was hooting, hollering, and dripping in sweat. I couldn’t wait to take a class.

The next day, I decided to give it a whirl, and had a difficult time keeping up. I was used to picking up choreography since I had danced for so long, was a 7-year-old step machine, and couldn’t get the moves to save my life. Of course, I love a challenge, so I kept going back to class, learned the name of the steps and variations, and could rock it out within a month or so. Like any type of choreographed class, there’s a learning curve, so practice makes better. From then on, I fell in love with step and it was one of the first classes I started teaching when I got my group fitness cert a few years ago.


[At the SCW Fitness Conference, July 2010]

So, what is it?

An aerobics class using a step, which is an elevated platform. You can adjust the height –it’s best to start off low to the ground and add inches as you get more comfortable, but don’t go too crazy with the height, especially if you’re short- and the use of the step simulates how it feels to walk up and down a set of stairs while you’re moving through the class. In other words, it burns.

This is good stuff right here: [a double-step class]


What to expect:

-To be confused at first. Before checking out a class, take a look at some YouTube videos to see what some of the basic moves are (basic, turn step, L step, 3-knee repeater, V step, corner knee and over-the-top are a few good ones to know). Take class with an open mind, have fun with it, and just use it as a chance to familiarize yourself with the type of workout and see if it’s something you’d like to include in your routine.

-The choreography is usually in 4 sets of 8 counts (a 32-beat set) and will most likely repeat the same combos on the right and left leg lead. This makes it a little easier to follow and remember what’s coming next.

-To be sore the first time. Walking up and down a small platform may seem like NBD during class, but if it’s your first time, you will feel it in your legs and booty for the next few days. Remember to get in lots of good stretching!

0007434571377_500X500 Source

What to wear:

-Anything goes, but go with something comfy and breathable. Usually I love to wear shorts for step, but  since many instructors will add a small abs set at the end of class, wearing crops can prevent flashing the goods during abs exercises- it depends on the class. I’d wear crops and a tank or comfortable tee, with supportive shoes for the first time. Also, make sure to bring a water bottle and a small towel (because you will sweat!).

Something like this + supportive shoes:



-Awesome calorie burn. An intense class will burn 500+ calories an hour, and also provides cardio endurance while improving balance. It also challenges your brain! Learning different combinations and choreography has been shown to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s.

-You can do it at home. A step is easy to order online or at a local sporting goods store(Amazon has them), small, so you can store it away while not in use, and add some DVDs to start your own step routine at home. [Does anyone have some good step video recommendations?] Also, FitTV has step aerobics on fairly often and the ones I’ve watched are quite good. [Watching a good fitness show as just as exciting as a good movie. Nerd alert]


-Highly choreographed class. Usually instructors will break down the combos in an easy-to-follow manner, but once you learn something, you’re quickly moving onto the next. This class may be extra challenging for those who have a difficult time learning choreography.

-Tough to make it more difficult. You can add more height to a certain degree, add in variations –there are some crazy fun L-step and repeater variations- but after that point, it gets harder to challenge yourself as you get used to the class. This is why crosstraining and trying out different types of classes is so important.

*Like anything else, the instructor can make or break a class. I’ve taken AWESOME step classes (like the ones in Fayetteville) and absolutely horrible ones with lame music and an instructor who couldn’t remember her own combos. Like with any fitness class, try out a couple of instructors to see what your teaching and music preferences are. The good news about step is that the music isn’t as important as the choreography, but I’ve heard some reallllllllly bad techno step music. I also found out that I really like stepping to rap 😉

So are you a step fan? Have you ever worn a leotard over spandex shorts? Please say yes.

Have a great day!


More Focus On posts:




-Tracy Anderson

Bootcamp Workouts

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  1. kara on October 12, 2011 at 3:17 pm

    i never really understood step cause i always thought it couldn’t be that great of a workout.. it seems i am wrong! but i definitely remember my mom doing it with her purple/pink step in our tiny living room when i was little.

    do you know ? i have yet to try any of the daily workouts but it seems like an awesome option for a quick, everchanging ab routine.

    • kara on October 12, 2011 at 3:18 pm

      also, i just got my sister hooked on turbofire. go me!!

      • Fitnessista on October 12, 2011 at 3:22 pm

        whoo hoo!

  2. Averie @ Love Veggies and Yoga on October 12, 2011 at 3:58 pm

    I never got into step. I know, crazy but true. I also have never gotten into Zumba or Turbofire or Insanity or anything that everyone else seems to rave about. I always say I need to try them…I wish you could be my instructor 🙂

    And I want to do yoga with you one day, too!

  3. AJ on October 12, 2011 at 4:11 pm

    Step is my favourite class, I really love it, the time flies and it’s a great workout. It is so true that the instructor makes it, luckily we have an awesome one at my gym and her class is really complicated and fun. Step is just not popular and hardly even done at other gyms I’ve been to, and I think it’s because they don’t have good instructors and people are mistaken that it’s not a good workout, I don’t understand that – I get a much better workout in step than other classes (body attack, zumba, even sometimes spin) – heart rate monitor has proven it. Go step! Yeah I had one of those leotards, makes me feel sooooo old!

  4. Haley @ Fit, Young, and Fabulous on October 12, 2011 at 4:17 pm

    I took my first high-intensity step class a couple of weeks ago. I had done an easy (more like senior-citizen) step class before, so when the instructor asked if there were any beginners I neglected to raise my hand. WOO I wish I had raised my hand! I was SO confused! Everyone in the class seemed like a proffessional! And I have NEVER been so tired after a class before. I’m going to build up the courage to try it again sometime soon, but WOO was it a workout!!!

  5. Sara on October 12, 2011 at 4:18 pm

    YES!! I’m so glad you did this post. I recently became a certified step instructor over the summer after taking AWESOME classes for a couple years. I’m teaching a class at my college, and I must say, I definitely feel like the minority as for loving step aerobics! I don’t know if others are intimidated by it, or think of step aerobics like in your first picture haha. So I’m trying to get the word out that it’s a really fun way to work out! As for good step videos, have you checked out Seasun Zieger? She’s on youtube as well if you want some previews. I have a couple of her DVDs and love them, but they’re REALLY dancey and advanced, and definitely require watching it first before trying it because she moves through it really fast!

  6. Jen on October 12, 2011 at 5:39 pm

    I <3 Step!!! Like you, I fondly remember my mom and aunts stepin' in style back in the 80's. I loved trying to do my mom's VHS workouts – using my swimsuit as a leotard and throwing on some leg warmers 😉 I still go to step 1-2 times per week. The instructors (and music!) can totally make or break the class. I've dropped in on some pretty lame-o ones in the past, but love the classes offered at my current gym.

  7. Roselyn @ A Balanced Fit on October 12, 2011 at 5:40 pm

    O. M. G. Step is my new favorite obsession!!! I want to get certified to teach it, I love it so much!

    Have you taken a Bodystep class? Its awesome.

    Also, my gym incorporates quick segments with weights into some of their step classes to make it more challenging. We’ll do 5-10 minutes of step, then a weight circuit. Its great. 🙂

  8. Carrie on October 12, 2011 at 5:57 pm

    Step is so awesome! 🙂 Jane Fonda Step Aerobics…my first workout tape. As an 80’s baby, I absolutely wore spandex shorts under my leotard…I rocked it as an 8-year-old, with a sideways ponytail. Awwww yeah… or ohhh no if you look at the pictures now…!

    I can’t look at footage from that tape without hysterically laughing at the hairstyles…will that increase my cardio? 😉

    By the way, you are KICKING BUTT on the voting at…I voted!!! 🙂 You will absolutely win!!! The only problem is there is no BEST WORKOUT / NUTRITION / FASHION / LIFESTYLE / FAMILY / PET BLOG. You need your own category next year!!!!!

    • Fitnessista on October 12, 2011 at 7:26 pm

      aww thank you carrie! you’re a sweetheart, and thank you so much for voting <3

  9. Jessica on October 12, 2011 at 6:01 pm

    Ohmygosh! I am so happy that I am not alone! I <3 step!

  10. Courtney @ The Petite AthlEAT on October 12, 2011 at 6:03 pm

    I can’t laugh – but I have to! I have never taken a step class, so maybe that’s why I want to laugh, because it looks so silly! 🙂 I did take hip hop, jazz, tap and ballet through junior high and most of high school .. But there’s something kind of … dorky … about step. 🙂 I’m sure if I did it, I would love it! 😛

  11. Sandy on October 12, 2011 at 6:32 pm

    My mom is a step instructor, has been since the early 80’s. She DEFINITELY rocked the leotard over bike shorts. Haha We have some great pictures… Oh and the thong leotards! Oh lord. So I have taken her step classes for a long time. I love the workout I get from them. Yes, I feel a little silly at times because a dancer I am not. But I do love it and feel kinda cool when I can keep up with my mom while others can’t. 🙂

  12. Eva @LittleMissGymRat on October 12, 2011 at 6:55 pm

    Always lookin’ for new workouts to try/switch up my routine with. Definitely considered taking my mom’s Jane Fonda vids (ollllllld school!) but hey, they offer step classes at my school’s rec centre – so I think I’ll take those instead 😉

  13. Kate on October 12, 2011 at 8:29 pm

    I love step! I used to go to my local Les Mills and do their body step classes at least twice a week! Have been thinking about starting again though

  14. Joelle (On A Pink Typewriter) on October 12, 2011 at 8:58 pm

    That picture is so hilarious! I’ve never tried step, but I def used to workout with my mom too when I was really little, rocking the onepiece swimsuit and shorts- you’re not alone. 😉

  15. jen b on October 12, 2011 at 9:32 pm

    I’m so happy you posted this! I love step. After a rough spring & summer of getting an osteoarthritis diagnosis in my knee, I had my husband make me a little baby (think 3 inches tall) step. It’s PERFECT! I can really do long cardio sessions and sweat a lot, burn tons of calories without putting too much stress on my knee. (I do it all grounded) My favorite step tape is The FIRM Cardio Step Mix–they don’t sell it anymore, so I paid big bucks on ebay for this. But, I recently bought Gin Miller’s Simply Step: Classic Moves. I LOVE it! It’s right around an hour & isn’t too dancy. She’s got lots of options so you could do different stuff each time.

  16. Laura Jane @ Recovering Chocoholic on October 12, 2011 at 9:50 pm

    I love step! It’s my favorite workout and I’m totally and completely uncoordinated. It just takes lots of practice. I totally agree that the instructor makes a big difference. I use Cathe step DVDs most of the time and it’s a serious workout.

  17. Mallory on October 12, 2011 at 10:01 pm

    This is kinda in topic… My sis has asthma and I want to recommend some workouts for her but I don’t know what to suggest. I know my bro in law wants to crossfit, but what are some things she needs to be careful of?

    • Fitnessista on October 13, 2011 at 12:15 am

      i’m not sure, since i’ve never had asthma. a couple of instructors at work have it and teach/take classes just fine, but i’m not sure how bad your sis’ is. i’d have her check with her doc on what types of workout intensities are ok

  18. OntarioGirl on October 13, 2011 at 9:49 am

    I love Step! I did BodyStep at the gym and since I don’t go anymore (I prefer working out at home) you now have me wanting to get a step for home and some step workout videos 🙂 Thank you! Also I’m pretty terrible at following choreography but I don’t think Step is too bad once you get the main moves down. I caught on!

    Also, voted for you! Love your blog 🙂

  19. Amber on October 13, 2011 at 2:53 pm

    So funny to see that the picture of the step you featured. I literally remember wearing those funky workout outfits and trying my hardest not to pick it out of the cracks!
    Cathe Freidrich has the best step videos out there. She is amazing, her dvd low max is probably one my most favorite ones and gives me a whopping 800 calorie burn every time!
    Love your post today!

  20. Debbi on October 20, 2011 at 3:54 pm

    How funny, this is my step instructor, Rey, in Las Vegas. The only difference is now we do triple step, no more double steps.

    • Fitnessista on October 20, 2011 at 9:32 pm

      no way!! i would love to take one of his classes

  21. Debbi on October 20, 2011 at 10:25 pm

    I know, weird. I didn’t take his class when he did double, I think that was several years ago. He now does only triple step and it’s a killer. You would love his classes. Next time you come to Vegas you need to come, he has classes Tuesday and Thursday nights and Saturday afternoon at the Las Vegas Athletic Club. I’m also the reader that also works at the Venetian. Please let me know the next time you visit.

    My daughter is also in the military, Navy!


    • Tricia on November 24, 2014 at 4:16 pm

      TRIPLE STEP!?!??! Does this still happen? I see you posted in 2011 :/

  22. steven on January 4, 2012 at 2:03 am

    thanks for the video shout out!!!

  23. Chris Kennedy on October 8, 2013 at 12:31 am

    Well Gina, as a guy, YES I WORE A LEOTARD WITH SHORTS UNDERNEATH!!! 😉 It was cool to wear whilst doing my aerobics!!! 🙂

  24. Tricia on November 24, 2014 at 4:15 pm

    I LOVE STEP! I seriously miss it since I moved, and my fave teacher doesn’t teach it anymore 🙁 I’m going to check out the DVD recommendations here. I’ve done double Step, but one was horizontal and one was vertical. SO MUCH FUN!!!

  25. Melissa on December 28, 2015 at 9:56 pm

    I know Step Aerobics work! Years ago, I watched my mother lose 100 pounds, and she stepped everyday. Serious calorie burn. Thanks for posting:)

  26. alexandra meyers on March 19, 2016 at 8:20 pm

    There was a fabulous health club in lake worth, Staying Alive. I loved it so much, I was there 6 days out of 7, with my children in strollers. There instructors were great. The class I loved the most, step. I did it 3 to 4 times a week, great instructors, fun music and the clubs classes ran from 6am to noon, and 4 to 8.
    Every one of those hours had classes. Zumba, yoga, powerlifting. classes were never so packed you couldn’t move. You received a ticket at the desk for the class. Just enough not to be unable to move and enjoy the workout. Upstairs were the weight machines, and trainers. Everything was clean, trainers were helpful. I lost tons of weight and stayed in good shape. Then dooms day came. The club closed.
    The Zoo took over….ruined everything. IT was hot, dirty and no classes. They closed. Went to LA fitness. I didn’t last there. I couldn’t work out without a trainer bothering me. The classes had no number control and was so crowded, I was knocked to the floor several times. Hardly any classes until 4pm.
    I have not found a club since that can compare to Staying Alive…still searching and getting fat. I need that group class to keep me going.

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