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Aerobic Exercise Steps for Beginners

written by: Finn Orfano • edited by: Cheryl Gabbert • updated: 4/27/2011

Aerobics classes are an energizing, supportive environment for getting fit and losing weight. Mastering a few of the basic moves beforehand can give you a confidence boost going into your first class.

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    Doing an aerobics class for the first time can be intimidating, and it’s easy to fall into the trap of comparing yourself to others as you struggle to master the basic aerobic exercise steps.

    Rest assured that the people who look like they’ve been doing the choreography forever have probably been doing exactly that. Many instructors repeat choreography over time, using the same basic steps to cobble together different routines. So by the time you’ve practiced these basic aerobics moves and done a few classes you’ll start to look and feel like you know what you’re doing, too.

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    March in Place

    The easiest way to get moving in an aerobics class is by marching in place. Your instructor might also have you march forward or back to the beat of the music as a warm-up. This is also your default aerobics step. If you get lost or confused, march to keep moving until you can jump back into the choreography.

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    Step Touch, Step Tap

    Now that you're marching, you're just one small change away from a stylish aerobics step. Step down with your left foot, then tap the toes of your right foot out to the side. Bring your right foot back in and step down on it, then tap the toes of your left foot to the side. Once you're comfortable alternating side taps, switch it up by tapping your toes in front of you instead of to the side, or doing heel taps instead of toe taps.

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    Side Steps

    Another way of modifying your basic march into fancier aerobics exercise steps: Take a step out to the right, weighting your right foot. Step down on your left foot, then bring your right foot back to center on the next step. Repeat on the other side, stepping out with your left, stepping on the right, then bringing your left foot back in. Make this move more challenging by stepping out to the side and sinking into a squat for one or two beats of the music, depending on how fast it is, then standing up and coming back to center on the next beat.

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    Ham Curls and High Knees

    Ham curls, also called leg curls, don't mean hefting chunks of pork. Instead, march in place with your legs about shoulder-width apart. As you shift your weight to your left foot, bend your right knee, bringing your right heel up toward your buttocks. As you step down on your right leg, repeat the curl on your left side.

    You can also perform the opposing motion, lifting your knees high in front of you as you step. Many instructors pair the latter movement with elbow touches, bringing the opposite elbow close to each lifted knee.

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    Step Ball Change

    The step ball change is an easy way of switching lead feet, and also adds a nice syncopated motion to your movements. This move crops up in almost all dance styles, and is one of the most common aerobic exercise steps you'll come across. Step forward and weight your right foot. (The “step.") Then place the ball of your left foot on the ground, shifting your weight only partially onto that foot. (The “ball.”) Quickly shift your weight back to your right foot (The “change.”). You’re now ready to lead off with your left foot.

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    Grapevine

    The grapevine is one of the more complicated aerobic exercise steps you'll encounter as a beginner, but so common that it's worth taking the time to master. Step out to the right, then bring your left foot in, crossing it behind the right. Step out to the right again, but this time cross your left foot in front. Continue alternating back-and-forward crosses; most grapevines are done for a count of 8 music beats, enough time for a sequence of right out-left behind-right out-left in front-right out-left behind-right out-left in front.