March 22, 2017



Natural Standard Monograph, Copyright © 2013 ( Commercial distribution prohibited. This monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. You should consult with a qualified healthcare provider before making decisions about therapies and/or health conditions.

Related Terms

  • Aerobic dance, high-impact, low-impact, sportaerobics, step aerobics, Tae-Bo®, water aerobics.


  • Aerobic exercise is any activity that uses large muscle groups, can be maintained continuously, and is rhythmic in nature. It is a type of exercise that works the heart and lungs and causes them to work harder than at rest.

  • Aerobic dance movement tends to be repetitive and pounding. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends aerobic exercise done for a minimum of 20 minutes, three times a week at 60% of the maximum heart rate. Doing less than this will minimize your health benefits. Exercising 4 or more times a week will increase your health benefits.

  • The word "aerobics" was coined by Dr. Kenneth H. Cooper, a physician at the San Antonio Air Force Hospital in Texas, to denote a system of exercise he developed to help prevent coronary artery disease. Cooper's book about the exercise system, Aerobics, was published in 1968. A year later, Jackie Sorenson developed aerobic dance. a series of dance routines to improve cardiovascular fitness.

  • During the next two decades, aerobic dance and exercise in various forms spread throughout the United States and into other countries. The number of aerobics participants in the United States. alone grew from an estimated 6 million in 1978 to 19 million in 1982 and 22 million in 1987.

  • In 1983, Howard and Karen Schwartz organized Sport Fitness International (SFI) to oversee a new competitive sport they had developed, known as sportaerobics. SFI conducted the first national aerobic championship in 1984. Howard Schwartz founded the International Competitive Aerobics Federation (ICAF) in 1989, and the first world championships were held at San Diego in March of 1990, with athletes from 15 countries competing.

  • The ICAF has become the Association of National Aerobic Championships Worldwide (ANAC), which has 38 member countries. The national governing body is now the United States Competitive Aerobics Federation (USCAF), also founded in 1989.

  • Sport aerobics originally featured competition in four categories: Individual male and female, mixed pairs, and trio, which can include any three athletes. In 2002, competition was added for groups of six athletes.

  • Theoretical benefits of dance aerobics include improved cardiovascular and respiratory functioning such as an increased ability of exercising muscles to consume oxygen, lowered resting and exercise heart rates, increased stamina, resistance to fatigue, more effective management of diabetes, reduced bone-mineral loss, decreased blood pressure, and increased efficiency of the heart. Dance aerobics also may help to reduce coronary artery disease (CAD) risk, increase quality of life, and increase strength, muscular endurance, and flexibility.


  • One randomized clinical trial concluded that dance-based aerobic exercise, specifically designed for older women, may improve selected components of balance and locomotion/agility, thereby lessening risks of falling. The coronary heart disease (CHD) risk factors improved for those participating in diet modifications or diet plus exercise (walking or aerobic dance). Reductions in low density lipoprotein-cholesterol and fasting glucose were significantly greater in the diet with aerobic group compared with the diet only and diet with walking groups.


  • Low-impact aerobics: Utilizes aerobic movements (those movements involving large muscle groups used in continuous rhythmic activity) in which at least one foot contacts the ground at all times. Low-impact aerobics evolved to decrease the lower leg overuse injuries associated with high-impact classes. Recommended for special populations, such as seniors, pregnant women and overweight individuals.

  • High-impact aerobics: This type is aerobic dance in which there are moments when the body is moved through space and both feet lose contact with the ground. High impact aerobics utilizes aerobic movements such as jumping and hopping. It provides great cardiovascular advantages along with good metabolic benefits (i.e., kilocalories utilized per minute of exercise).

  • Step aerobics: Step aerobics involves stepping up and down from a platform. Step aerobics can offer a moderate- to high-intensity cardiovascular workout with low impact stresses. Intensity of the class can be individualized by changing the platform height and use of propulsion.

  • Water aerobics: This type of aerobics is done in the water. Water aerobics is very low-impact and, due to the buoyancy of the water, is recommended for overweight people. It is not necessary to know how to swim to do water aerobics as they are usually done in waist-high water.

  • Tae Bo®: TAE BO is an acronym for Total Awareness Excellence Body Obedience. It is an aerobic exercise routine developed by tae kwon do practitioner Billy Blanks that combines music with training exercises to develop an intensive workout regimen. It is a combination of tae kwon do (Korean martial art) and boxing. The high-intensity workout has been shown to increase cardio fitness, strength, muscular endurance and flexibility.

  • Equipment recommended: Experts recommend proper foot wear (shoes designed for aerobic dance are recommended), and lightweight and well-ventilated clothing for dance aerobics. Also recommended is a spacious area or room, floor surface that provides cushion and stability, motivating music 120-135 beats per minute or an exercise video tape if at home, or various aerobic shows on TV.


  • A large percentage of aerobic dance class participants and instructors experience injuries. Most injuries occur to the lower leg.

  • Over-using muscles may cause them to fatigue and increase their risk for injury.

  • Most experts recommend treating injuries with ice as soon as possible. Ice therapy relieves pain and slows blood flow to the injury. As a result, internal bleeding and swelling may be reduced.

  • Pounding of the feet is one of the most common causes of stress fractures, which are tiny surface cracks in the bones, of the foot and shinbone.

  • Overuse injuries of the knees are caused by repetitive bending and straightening. Hyperextending or hyperflexing the knee joint can cause injury as well.

  • Knee sprains and strains are also common in aerobic dance.

  • The impact or twisting of the knee inward or outward causes ligaments to be stretched or torn.

  • A qualified healthcare provider should be consulted before making decisions about new exercise routines.

  • Choose a certified aerobic instructor who is trained to give safe, effective, and fun classes.

Author Information

  • This information has been edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (


Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a thorough systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to Selected references are listed below.

  1. Aerobic dance injuries. 18 May 2006.

  2. Aerobic dances. 18 May 2006.

  3. Okura T, Nakata Y, Tanaka K. Effects of exercise intensity on physical fitness and risk factors for coronary heart disease. Obes Res. 2003 Sep;11(9):1131-9. View Abstract

  4. Shigematsu R, Chang M, Yabushita N, et al. Dance-based aerobic exercise may improve indices of falling risk in older women. Age Ageing. 2002 Jul;31(4):261-6. View Abstract

Copyright © 2013 Natural Standard (

The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.


March 22, 2017