Back to articles Moving on from Jazzercise by Tara Duff-Bergeron

Categories: Parenting

When you?re taking time out from the kids (and the dishes, the laundry, the banking, your job and the other million things you have to do) to exercise, you want to be sure you?re getting the best work out you can in the time you have.

Exercise classes can be a great solution to your work out woes – they often combine some cardio and strength training components all in one hour.  Plus, they’re one hour!  If you find the right class and the right instructor, an hour of exercise can fly by with nary a glance at the clock. 

If your memories of group fitness are a haze of lycra one-pieces and Bee Gees numbers, allow me to re-introduce you.  The world has changed since the days of jazzercise and there are tons of great classes out there.  Most of them fall into the following types:

  • step aerobics: moderate to high intensity movements on, over and around an adjustable step; usually involves some jumping and may not be suitable for those with joint conditions; set to music with a quick pace that burns 300-600 calories/hour, depending on intensity.

  • high-low aerobics: high impact moves are those in which both feet are simultaneously off the floor; low impact moves are those in which one foot stays on the floor at all times - put them together with a soundtrack straight from Much More Retro and you’ve got traditional aerobics.  300-500 calories/hour (higher impact = higher caloric burn).

  • abs/core: usually 15-30 minutes, these classes are crammed with sit ups, crunches, planks and other moves often borrowed from traditional yoga and pilates disciplines; set to music and faster than regular strength training to burn around 150 calories/half-hour.

  • yoga: adapted from the traditional religious & meditative rituals of India, modern “yoga” classes are full-body strengthening & stretching sessions that build focus, balance, endurance and coordination without impacting joints.  The most common types, ashtanga & hatha, burn 300-500 calories per hour but do not offer the same cardiovascular benefits as more intense aerobic exercise.

  • pilates: another adaptation, “pilates” classes are variations on the classic pilates dance training method; focus is on the core - abs, back, and hips - with high reps to build endurance and discipline; while not a cardiovascular workout, pilates burns 250-450 calories/hour.

  • kickboxing: yet another adaptation, aerobic kickboxing mixes martial arts with conditioning exercises like push ups and jumping jacks at a quick pace set to music; tones most muscles of the body and works the cardiovascular system for 400-600 calories/hour.  May not be suitable for those with joint problems.

  • pump/strength: basic weightlifting moves like chest presses, squats, lunges, and rows are set to music; weights are very light and reps are extreme - approximately 50-100 reps per body part - to build muscular & cardiovascular endurance.  Burns 300-500 calories/hour.

  • spinning: one of the newest styles, spinning is just cycling set to music and usually involving various speed and resistance intervals to burn more calories than traditional cycling; performed on a “spin” bike at a very high intensity that burns 500-700 calories/hour.

  • hip hop: aerobic dance classes, these are the jazzercise of the new millenium.  Aerobic dance builds coordination and endurance, sometimes with high-impact movements or complicated footwork that may frustrate some exercisers.  Burns 300-500 calories/hour.

Whichever you choose, fitness classes can be a great way to build longer cardio sessions into your exercise program.  The key, as with anything, is moderation.  Five spinning classes a week will not only become boring and easy (translation: you burn fewer calories as you get used to doing the same workout over and over), but it may even cause what we call “overuse injuries” that cause joint and muscle pain or even keep you from workout out altogether.  Mix up the classes and don’t forget to add traditional strength training at least twice weekly.

Jazz hands, everybody…

Dara Duff-Bergeron is a veteran fitness trainer and a mommy of one with one on the way.  After a decade of fitness training, consulting and writing, Dara now combines her exceptional experience and down-to-earth philosophy in Fit Family personal training and Belly Bootcamp pre-and post-natal fitness.  Contact her at for more information.