When I first heard there were Jazzercise classes just down the road from my house, my first thought was: “Oh, Jazzercise. How ’70s.” But nevertheless, I decided to join because it was closer than going to a gym, the price was right, and I figured it couldn’t be all bad.
Well, it has turned out to be one of the best exercise programs I’ve ever experienced. I am a committed Jazzerciser now.

Although the Jazzercise dance fitness program has been around since 1969, it is definitely not stuck back in that era. Jazzercise is a blend of jazz dance, resistance training, yoga and kickboxing movements, and lately has borrowed moves from hip-hop and Pilates. The music that the routines are set to is a mixture of current pop tunes and classics.

Jazzercise, founded by Judi Sheppard Missett, is now being taught in 32 countries around the world. The 60-minute classes are a total body workout, and include cardio and strength training as well as overall toning.

When I started Jazzercise a few years ago, I was a bit overweight and not in particularly good shape. Now, I am 20 pounds lighter and have gone from a size 10 to a 6. My flexibility and endurance have improved greatly. My arms and stomach are toned for the first time since having kids.

I think the reason for all this is that Jazzercise is fun. Because it’s fun, not intimidating, and easy to learn, people (like me) are more likely to stick with the program. Instructors go out of their way to be friendly and to make their students feel comfortable, no matter what their shape or fitness level might be.

Unlike a lot of other aerobics-type classes I’ve taken, Jazzercise routines are not difficult to follow. Let’s face it, exercise shouldn’t be rocket science. Although the moves are simple, they are enjoyable. If you need to change the routine because you have a bad back or other physical problem, the instructors can show you moves that won’t aggravate your condition.

Generally, the classes start out with a warmup and stretch, then progress to cardio routines. The last part of the class is devoted to toning the abdomen, thighs, arms and buttocks. Instructors often use hand weights, leg weights, exercise balls and stretchy bands to enhance results. You do not need any dance experience for Jazzercise.

I have always enjoyed dance, and so Jazzercise has been a lot of fun for me, in addition to the exercise benefits. I really like exercising to music – it helps me forget the pain and push harder – and the songs picked for Jazzercise routines are great. In fact, I’ve discovered a lot of good music through Jazzercise. I’ll often ask the instructor after class, “What was that song?” and then go home and download it right away.

The toning exercises seem to be particularly effective. I’ve had really good results, much better than from any other exercise program I’ve followed.

All kinds of people come to my Jazzercise classes – teenagers, seniors, men, women, beginners and experts. No one is out to impress each other, unlike some classes I’ve taken at gyms. If you miss a step or two, it’s no big deal.

Every instructor sets their own prices for Jazzercise classes. In addition to regular Jazzercise, an instructor may also offer Jazzercise Lite, Body Sculpting or Jazzercise Express (a shorter class) during the week.

My instructor offers a $50 punch card that’s good for 10 classes. So it comes out to $5 a class – which I find is much less expensive than going to a gym. Some instructors charge a one-time initiation fee as well.

One downside to Jazzercise is that you may have to bring your own exercise mat, hand and leg weights, exercise balls and stretchy bands. Some instructors have them available for students to use, some don’t. I bought my own – about $30 for everything.

You will also need a good pair of exercise shoes. I bought cross-trainers for about $40 and they work fine. You can also buy shoes made specifically for aerobics. You can wear whatever you like, although Jazzercise does offer a line of its own exercise clothing, fitness gear, and accessories.

Jazzercise does offer some nice free services through its Web site. You can print out monthly and weekly fitness logs, download workout Podcasts free from iTunes, and receive Jazzercise e-newsletters if you want.

Jazzercise has definitely made it into the 21st century. Try it – you’ll like it!


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