Ideas for Low Impact Cardio- Retro Fitness Fads!

September 04, 2013

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Trends come and go. Every few years hairstyles change, fashion is updated, and home decor gets an overhaul. When it comes to evolution, fitness is no exception. There is always a fresh, new way to get in shape. As something new comes along, something gets left behind. However, many fitness fads of the past are still effective, fun and accessible today. Better still, many of these are lower impact than running on the street or treadmill (and more entertaining as well).  While acid-washed jeans and popped collars are best left in the past, many of these retro workouts are worth a second look for low impact cardio options, particularly if you are prone to sore feet.

Tae Bo Popular in the late 90s, Tae Bo was a combination of martial arts and boxing, with a bit of aerobics thrown in as well. Creator Billy Blanks had the nation kicking and air punching its way to toned muscles and improved reflexes. Because it was usually set to upbeat music and incorporated some familiar dance moves, Tae Bo felt more accessible than traditional martial arts but left participants with a feeling of empowerment and toughness.  Many of the moves in Tae Bo are low impact, including all of the upper body activities.  Some of the higher intensity routines do involve bouncing on the balls of the feet, so keep this in mind if you have foot pain in these areas, or particularly flat feet. How to do it today: Tae Bo and other similar workouts are available on DVD so you can relive the craze in your own home. Many gyms also offer similar fitness classes, usually under the updated heading of “cardio kickboxing.” For the benefits of martial arts without the dance moves, check out a Tae Kwon Do or Krav Maga class.

Sweatin’ To The Oldies This video series, which showcased Richard Simmons clad in short shorts and bright tank tops, was popular in the late 80s and early 90s. Set to hit songs from the 50s and 60s, the low intensity dances were perfect for beginners. Sweatin’ To The Oldies emphasized having fun while working out and encouraged fitness newcomers to participate in cardiovascular exercise disguised as simple dance moves.  Just one caveat, shelve the dancing shoes and stick with a good pair of sneakers for this one. How to do it today: For a modern twist on dance-based fitness, try a Zumba class. Zumba combines the fun of several types of dance, including hip-hop and salsa, with an intense cardio workout. Keep in mind though, because Zumba is higher intensity, you may lose some low impact benefits (or all of them).  For those nostalgic for Richard Simmons’ curly hair, tiny shorts and easy-to-follow moves, the original Sweatin’ To The Oldies is available through a variety of online retailers.

Step Aerobics The step aerobics craze of the late 80s and early 90s featured dance-inspired classes with fast-paced choreography done while stepping on and off a raised platform. Step aerobics not only provided an excellent cardiovascular workout, but also improved balance and coordination. The use of the step also led to improved muscle tone, especially in the thighs and buttocks. Participants could choose their own intensity by raising or lowering the step. Please be aware, Step Aerobics can quickly become high impact cardio if you are performing the maneuvers improperly.  This can lead to back pain and heel pain in some.  I recommend attending a class initially so a qualified instructor can show you exactly how to keep your Step Aerobics low impact. How to do it today: Aerobic steps, as well as workout videos, are available online as well as in a variety of sporting goods or fitness stores. Some gyms also offer step aerobics classes, though most are being phased out in favor of other cardio and dance classes. The benefits, though perhaps not the fun, of the step can be gained by using a stair climber. T

Thighmaster In the 1990s, actress Suzanne Somers began popping up in infomercials touting the benefits of the Thighmaster. This simple piece of fitness equipment promised to tone and sculpt the inner thighs by providing resistance. Using the Thighmaster could not have been easier; just place it between the knees and squeeze. This piece of equipment became a hit because it was relatively inexpensive and could be used while watching TV or reading a book. Contrary to its name, the Thighmaster was not a one-trick pony. It could also be used to tone the arms, chest and upper back.  Yes, I know, the Thighmaster isn't technically a cardio exercise.  However, for many beginners, the Thighmaster can provide quite a strenuous workout. How to do it today: Though not widely advertised, the Thighmaster is still around and readily available in stores and online. However, there are numerous other ways to achieve the same results without purchasing and storing a piece of equipment. Lunges and squats are both excellent at toning the inner thighs and can be done at home, in front of the TV. While all things, from fashion to fitness, need refreshing from time to time, there is no reason to throw out a fitness routine to follow the next workout craze. Many retro fitness crazes, though not as widely popular as they once were, are worth trying today for a low-impact cardio alternative. Just feel free to try them without the leotard and leg warmers. As always, check with your medical doctor before beginning any exercise program.

Dr. Thomas Lembo
Dr. Thomas Lembo


Hello! I'm the creator of "Samurai Insoles", and work to rid the world of foot pain everyday.