Thought step aerobics were gone for good? Think again. Meet Step, our latest (and long-awaited!) cardio class type. It’s our fresh take on the fitness fad of the ‘80s and ‘90s with the nostalgic touches you love, as well as the efficacy and results you want.
As children of the 1980s, our co-founders Ashley Mills and Mark Mullett grew up watching their moms work out with all the classic aerobics instructors—Jane Fonda, Richard Simmons, Jack Lalanne, Denise Austin. (All it takes is one look at our colorful set to see how inspired we were by the ‘80s and early ‘90s aesthetics!) So who better to launch a fresh, fun version of Step aerobics than obé?
But this isn’t your mother’s step aerobics. Set to the beat of modern music, our heart-pumping version of Step leaves you sweaty, strong, and empowered.
What is Step Aerobics?
Step was originally developed in the 1980s by gymnast Gin Miller, who used a step platform to strengthen muscles in the knee after an injury based on her doctor’s advice. Amid the higher-impact ‘80s aerobics fads like dance and jogging, step provided a low-impact option that was safe (and effective!) for people at any fitness level.
Our reimagined version includes cardio-heavy choreographed sequences with light-weight, high-rep sculpt exercises using a step bench (don’t DIY this—our recs are below!) and your body weight. For certain sculpt sequences, you can grab light hand weights to level up. Also, expect killer soundtracks that’ll get into a good rhythm!
Benefits of Step Aerobics
Don’t let the neon scrunchies, upbeat soundtracks, and colorful sets fool you. “Step is a high-intensity, beat-based workout that improves your cardiovascular fitness—aka it gets your heart pumping,” says instructor Sam G. Using a step bench for footwork (rather than jumping) keeps it low-impact, meaning it’s gentle on your joints.
Step also builds strength, especially in your legs, core, and back. When you add in Sculpt sequences (like we do at obé!) you get even more strength-building benefits for your entire body, Sam says.
Since Step classes involve some choreography and movement patterns, it’s also a total mind-body workout! You’ll improve your balance, coordination, and agility over time—and it’s rewarding to see how you progress along the way, notes Sam.
Finally, it’s also really fun, which science backs up: One study found that a 50-minute Step session helped lower negative emotions while boosting mood and energy levels.
Tips and Techniques for Step Classes
- Don’t be intimidated! “Step is 100% a workout for all levels,” Sam says. Start getting the basics down by taking the Essentials class with Kathryn, then you can level up when you feel comfortable with the moves. “It may take you a little time to get adjusted to stepping up and stepping off, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll be amazed at how quickly you progress.”
- Use a steady step bench with a non-slip surface. (See our recs below!) The height of a step bench can range from 4 to 10 inches typically, so start at the lowest level if you’re a beginner. As you progress or if you’re experienced, you can start to adjust and make the step higher for a harder intensity.
- Keep your form on point. “Since Step involves a lot of balancing work, you’ll want to make sure you engage your core,” Sam explains. At the same time, focus on tucking your pelvis, keeping your chest lifted, and drawing your shoulders back and down.
- Step up the right way. Step up onto your heel, which helps keep the work in your glutes, and less in your knees and toes, Sam suggests. You also want to be sure to step firmly, yet softly—try not to stomp!
- Always wear shoes. It’s important to always wear sneakers if the instructors are wearing them, Sam says. Check out this blog for a guide to the proper footwear for any obé class.
Recommended Step Equipment
While leg warmers, sweat bands, and neon leotards are totally optional, we do strongly suggest buying a step bench to ensure a sturdy, non-slip, and safe base. A few of our favorites can be found on Amazon:
- Body Sport Aerobic Step ($60): This is closest to the step we use in the Box!
- Tone Fitness Aerobic Step Platform ($27)
- Gaim Essentials Exercise Step Platform ($30)
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