The sentiment that what’s old is new again rings true regularly in our culture. Think bell bottoms, butterfly clips, and brick red lipstick, just to name a few “old” trends that have returned to the mainstream in recent times after taking a hiatus. Workouts are no exception to the trend cycle, and favorite methods that have gone by the wayside often return in new ways. Such is the case with Bodystep, a new version of the step aerobics classes that were popular in the 1980s. For this new version, you won’t need a unitard or feathered bangs—this fresh workout is ready for you to enjoy in 2020s fashion.
We spoke with three Les Mills Bodystep trainers to find out everything possible about this workout. Read on to learn all about Bodystep, including the benefits and how to get started.
MEET THE EXPERT
- Janice Years is a Les Mills US trainer and presenter based in Fairfax, Virginia. She has been a fitness professional for over seven years and has expertise in aerobics, step, circuit, kickboxing, and resistance.
- Demetria Wilson is a certified personal trainer as well as a Les Mills US trainer and presenter. In addition to Bodystep, she specializes in Bodypump, Bodyflow, Les Mills’ takes on barre and core classes, and more.
- Mohamed Bounaim is a Les Mills US trainer and presenter and a Reebok-sponsored athlete, based in Florida.
What Is Bodystep?
Bodystep is a step aerobics workout created by fitness company Les Mills, which offers both in-home and studio workouts. Years tells us that it’s “injecting new training elements to stay fresh and current,” and “each track has its own song with its own specific training objective that we focus on for four to six minutes.”
Wilson tells us the workout uses energizing top hits, and each track references a segment of the workout. “In the warmup track, we work on warming up the whole body to get ready for the workout, in the athletic circuit track, we work on short, intense bouts of work with rest intervals, and in the party track, we work on letting loose with some fun dance moves,” Years adds.
The workout is also less complicated to complete than old fashioned step workouts. Bounamin explains that “the complexity is dialed way down while the athleticism is dialed up—without ever losing the fun and euphoric energy of a step workout.”
Bodystep is an aerobic workout, which means that cardio is its focus. It also has some elements of strength training, particularly for the lower body. Wilson says it’s ideal “for anyone wanting to increase their cardiovascular system, while defining strength in their legs and butt.” She explains, “in a typical Bodystep class you can expect to get in at least 8,000 steps. We push through peak tracks increasing the heart rate, followed by recoveries that highlight strength and add a bit of fun.”
Bounaim says that Bodystep is excellent for fat burning—something cardiovascular exercise is known for. “Imagine walking up a flight of stairs for an hour with squats, lunges, running, and jumping thrown in—that’s gonna get your heart rate up, burn some fat, and tone your legs,” he tells us.
What to Expect from a Bodystep Workout
Expect to sweat when you do Bodystep, but don’t let that intimidate you into thinking it’s going to be too hard. The equipment used in Bodystep is adjustable, making it an accessible cardio workout for various levels. “The adjustable step helps everyone in class achieve their unique goals, whether it’s to fly as high as possible on the propulsive knees, to stay low and loaded in the down taps, or to yearn for the leg burn in the knee repeaters,” Years says. “Any of the moves that you see are similar moves that you might do at a physical therapist, such as step-ups and step-downs.”
Benefits of Bodystep
Cardiovascular exercise helps to strengthen our hearts, lower our blood sugar, and ward off disease.1 Because Bodystep is primarily a cardio workout, those benefits can be considered innate to it, particularly if it’s practiced regularly.
Additionally, it’s easy to modify your workout to your needs. “There are so many ways to modify the workout to accommodate to your needs, such as removing height off of the step, removing intensity of the lower body impact, and/or removing complexity of the upper body movements,” Years explains.
Wilson explains that the quick pace of the workout is mentally stimulating and will leave you feeling energized. Bounaim loves the positive vibes of the class, stating that “the fun is just so happily infectious.”
Bodystep is an accessible workout, and you don’t need to have a strong exercise background: Most people who are able to walk forwards and backwards, as well as step up and down, will be able to do it. That said, there are still a few considerations to make in order to ensure a safe workout experience.
If you have a foot or leg injury, Wilson advises that you consult with your physician before trying Bodystep. “Our classes do involve stepping on and off of a bench,” she says. If you have concerns about this, “the bench can be excluded from the workout and done on the floor for better balance and less complexity.”
Since this is set to music, you’ll be trying to keep up with a beat—a task that can prove challenging for some. “All exercise poses the risk of injury, so make sure to listen to your instructor to follow the safety cues and also remember to take the low complexity and lower intensity options until you get comfortable with the step,” Bounaim advises.
To avoid rolling an ankle, which Wilson mentions is a risk, you want to ensure a solid relationship with your step. “The better you are at making contact with the bench with the whole foot, the more secure and safe you will be in the class,” she explains. She adds that the class does contain breaks, and you can always take an additional break if you need it.
For those who are pregnant, doing Bodystep is possible, though you should always consult with your practitioner before starting a new workout regimen. “I did Bodystep at 39 weeks pregnant, three days before giving birth,” Years tells us.
Bodystep vs. Classic Step Aerobics
Both Bodystep and classic step classes are aerobic workouts that center around stepping onto and off of a small bench. They both also use the bench for tasks such as lunging, jumping, and hopping, and you can add upper body workout moves to each.
Bodystep differs from a standard step class in that it introduces new routines regularly, and it focuses on keeping the vibe lively with fresh music and moves. While there are countless step workouts in the world because it has existed for so long, Bodystep is adding new options to this sector by periodically releasing new workouts with modern times in mind.
What to Wear to a Bodystep Class
To do a Bodystep workout, you’ll want to dress comfortably, but with movement in mind. Wear an athletic shoe that fits well: Years recommends “great sneakers that give you lots of support for walking and jogging up and down the step.”
For people with breasts, Wilson suggests a supportive sports bra. Bounaim says to focus on “clothing that will be comfortable to sweat and jump in,” and Years suggests wearing “whatever you feel comfortable sweating in.” For most people, this can be a tank top or T-shirt, paired with athletic leggings, sweatpants, or shorts.
How to Get Started with Bodystep
To get started with Bodystep, you’ll want to chose between attending a class virtually or in-person. Of course, virtual classes are ideal for those who don’t live close to a studio, and Bounaim says they’re also a good choice if you just don’t have the time to commute for a workout. You can find virtual Bodystep classes, as well as in-person information, on the Les Mills website.
All three trainers tell us that the in-person class is worth a try if you have the opportunity, as the group energy takes the workout to a new level. Years says that “an in-person workout has the benefit of having a live instructor who will teach to the group and accommodate the workout to your needs,” and Wilson adds that “In a group atmosphere, you have your teammates helping to encourage you through the workout.”
Bodystep is an aerobic exercise workout. Just like the original version of step classes, it uses a short bench as the main piece of equipment: You’ll jump, lunge, and more using the step throughout the workout.
Available in both virtual and in-person formats, each Bodystep class cycles through several curated pop tracks that match each phase of exercise. The workout is easy to modify for beginners, and the pace is quick to keep you energized and on your (literal) toes. If you’re looking for a new workout that gives you retro vibes, it’s an excellent idea to try.