I Started Doing Jazzercise Instead of My Daily Walks, and It’s the Strengthening, Therapeutic Fun I Didn’t Know I Needed

Photo: Getty Images/Luis Alvarez
I’ve been taking daily four-mile strolls since long before any TikTokker dubbed them “Hot Girl Walks.” Then I hit my 50s, and severe heel pain made them nearly impossible. A podiatrist diagnosed the problem as plantar fasciitis. We tried cortisone shots, heel cups, stretching, pain pills. Any relief was temporary. I knew I had to find a new form of exercise.

I tried cycling (too dangerous) and swimming (too cold), and I knew gym life was not for me.

My neighbor was always posting online about Jazzercise, which I’d dismissed as too retro. But after struggling to find a replacement for my physical (and mental) health, I decided to pop into a studio one day after work.

I don’t know what I was expecting. Maybe leg warmers, a disco ball, and Barry Manilow on the sound system? What I saw instead was an energetic class full of women ranging from their 20s to 80s(!), dancing to Justin Bieber.

I explained my foot situation to the studio owner, and told her that, while I love dancing, I wasn’t sure if this program could work for me. She picked out some low-impact and strength classes, and encouraged me to try them over the next two weeks.

I had no idea what to wear or what shoes I’d need, really no idea where to begin. It had been years since I’d been in a dance or fitness class of any kind. I went to Lululemon, looked at the prices, then went to Target. Then I drove to an athletic store and splurged on a pair of hot pink Brooks sneakers, known for providing great support.

I started the next day. Terms I hadn’t heard since my elementary school days of tap and ballet class (plié! relevé! ball change!) brought back happy memories, and muscle memory soon kicked in.

I went almost every day for those two weeks and my foot didn’t bother me. That was more than three years ago, and Jazzercise is still a priority for me every day. Why? Here are six reasons that I now rely on this 54-year-old fitness program.

Surprising Jazzercise benefits that shouldn't be overlooked

1. You can adapt each routine to your personal ability

For every high-impact cardio song that involves a lot of jumping, there’s a way to modify it. You can jump and move as much or as little as you want to.

For planks—my least favorite of all things—you can do them like a Navy Seal on your forearms or on your knees like I do. If you don’t want to descend to a mat during the strength and stretch part of class, you can stay standing.

No two people in a Jazzercise class have the exact same workout.

2. Jazzercise is also a mental workout

Although I sometimes miss the fresh air and sunshine of my daily walks, I’ve found that Jazzercise requires more mental focus, which is a great stress reliever.

When the instructor shouts, “Chassé right!” you can’t be worried about your broken A/C; you will literally get run over by the other women. You simply have to be in the moment. The instructors remind us, “This is your time, ladies!” Everything else can wait.

3. I have newfound strength

While my stomach isn’t flat and my hips are not small, I feel like now, at 55, I’m in the best physical shape of my life. When I started Jazzercise, I’d grab an adorable pair of 2.5-pound weights each day for the strength portion, which was my least favorite part of class.

Soon, though, those felt too easy, and I moved up to four pounds, then five, then six. One day after class, a woman behind me commented that my back muscles were looking good. What? I had back muscles? I went home and looked in the mirror and sure enough, I had definition I’d never had before.

As menopause hit and hot flashes kicked in, this standing-still strength portion of class quickly became my favorite part of the hour. (Seven pounds, here I come.)

I’ve noticed this physical strength in other areas of my life, too. I can squat easily now to change kitty litter. I can touch my toes, balance on one leg, and zoom upstairs at home without panting.

4. My endurance increased

Some Jazzercise moves were familiar to me, like leg lifts and crunches. But I’d never done kickboxing, yoga, or Pilates before. Different moves work different muscles, and there were days I could feel it all over.

One day we did a floor routine on our backs where we had to lift and lower our legs, never letting them touch the floor. I couldn’t do it. I phoned that one in. A few days later, I could hold it for a few seconds, and after two weeks I could do the full routine. I had built up my endurance, little by little. Now I can keep up with my husband on our occasional hikes.

5. The group provides emotional support

As a married mother of two sons, my home life involves a lot of testosterone. The older I get, the more I value female companionship.

After my mom died, getting back to Jazzercise was the first step in my healing and resuming a normal routine. People noticed I’d been gone and welcomed me back. This group of women provides a sense of community and camaraderie.

There’ve been days when an instructor will yell out, “We got this!” or, “You can do hard things!” and it’s just what I need to hear.

Many of us show up to class with a lot on our minds. But once the music starts, everything else fades away.

And there’s no judgment. One woman had had enough one day and just sat down on the floor in the middle of class. We made sure she was okay—and then kept on dancing. She needed a moment. And we all understood.

6. Jazzercise is my way to move without pain

I’m still careful not to jump or tax my foot in any way, and Jazzercise has provided a way for me to keep moving and stay fit, while having fun.

Now that I’ve found something I love to do, I do it consistently. There are women in my class who’ve been doing it for 40 years. A friend remarked to me recently that she missed our college days when we’d all go out clubbing every weekend. “I miss dancing,” she said.

Not me. I get to go to a dance party every day.

Want to get your own groove on? Try this dance cardio routine from dancer Amanda Baxter:

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