I tried Les Mills Bodystep, NZ’s iconic step aerobics workout

DDespite being a fairly dedicated exerciser (I take Orangetheory classes four to five times per week), I’m as bad as they come. Ever loving a challenge, though, I thought giving one of New Zealand’s most popular step aerobics workouts, the Les Mills BodyStep, a try would get me closer to being more coordinated. And, at the very least, it will teach me what makes this trendy workout so incredibly popular.

“BodyStep is an exhilarating, and fun full-body step workout that will leave you feeling strong, agile and motivated,” promises Judson McDonald, CPT, learning and development specialist at Les Mills International, as well as a BodyStep teacher. “Using a combination of bodyweight, functional bench and optional weight-plate exercises, you’ll challenge your muscles, develop coordination and improve your cardio fitness.”

I’m not sure what I was expecting, to be honest, when I signed up for a BodyStep class at Les Mills Live in New Orleans, a gathering of trainers and digital subscribers from Les Mills+, a new omnichannel fitness platform from the 50-year-old group. The fitness brand launched last year. You can also take classes remotely online or by finding a live class near you (because, FYI, Bodystep is taught in gyms across the country). At Les Mills Live, however, the class was packed to the brim with cheering steppers. The lights were low, the music was loud and the lasers were stretched out in all directions.

Get step by step

Knowing that I wanted to observe the scene before me, I positioned myself towards the back of the space. As the music grew louder and the beat pounded harder, I was amazed at how quickly and fluidly all the people in front of me moved. I wasn’t surprised (or surprised), however, by how thoroughly I was struggling with it.

The roughly hour-long class features research-based, functional movement patterns that change each month. Think: walking step-ups, reverse lunges, side squats, burpees, forward and lateral raises, and more. Even the most basic exercise, though, is made to look like a dance rather than a functional exercise, with bounce in your step and coordinated arm movements. In short, it was a lot.

Although the weights weren’t heavy and the reps weren’t high, the pace at which the workout was done was enough to make you sweat. According to my hoop fitness tracker, the workout was clocked at 12.5 strains, which is toward the top of the moderate-intensity range — and I didn’t even use the heaviest weight, nor the maximum stride for the entire duration of the workout.

“The height-adjustable steps and options coached by your trainer make this workout perfect for all fitness levels, and the upbeat music will inspire you to push your personal limits,” says McDonald, and I can attest. Thanks to the enthusiastic instructors, and the variety of variations available, the class was doable—even for someone like me who is a square-one beginner at step aerobics. (Though I wish I had watched some of Les Mills+’s step-by-step tutorials before taking the class, so I would have known what to expect.)

McDonald tells me it usually takes five or six classes to start getting the hang of the movement. Fortunately, BodyStep trainers pump out multiple workouts each week, so there’s plenty of material to move along. And because BodyStep Les Mills can be done with or without equipment, it means that no matter where I am, I now have an option for fun, improved fitness. Do I feel less awkward after a workout? no But I have high hopes that I can improve my coordination by one step.

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