I\’ve started doing Jazzercise instead of my daily 4-mile walks, and it\’s therapeutic, reinforcing fun I didn\’t know I needed

II\’ve been taking four-mile daily walks since long before any TikTokker dubbed them Hot Girl Walks. Then I hit 50 and severe heel pain made it nearly impossible. A podiatrist diagnosed the problem as plantar fasciitis. We tried cortisone shots, heels, stretches, painkillers. 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 knew the gym life wasn\’t for me.

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

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

I explained my foot situation to the studio owner and told her that even though I love to dance, I wasn\’t sure if this program would work for me. She chose a few strength and low impact classes and she encouraged me to try them over the next couple of weeks.

I had no idea what to wear or what shoes I would need, I really had no idea where to start. It had been years since I had taken a dance or fitness class of any kind. I went to Lululemon, looked at the prices, then went to Target. Then I went to a sporting goods store and splurged on a pair of bright pink Brooks sneakers, known for providing great support.

I started the next day. Terms I hadn\’t heard since elementary school tap and ballet (pli! relev! ball change!) brought back happy memories, and muscle memory soon kicked in.

I went most days for those two weeks and my foot didn\’t bother me. It\’s been over three years and Jazzercise is still a priority for me every day. Why? Here are six reasons I now rely on this 54-year-old fitness program.

Amazing benefits of Jazzercise not to be overlooked

1. You can tailor each routine to your personal capabilities

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

For boards, my least favorite things, you can do them like a Navy Seal on your forearms or knees like I do. If you don\’t want to get down on a mat during the strength and stretching portion of the class, you can remain standing.

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

2. Jazzercise is also a mental workout

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

When the instructor yells, Chass is right! you can\’t be worried about your broken A/C; you will literally be run over by other women. You simply have to be in the moment. Instructors remind us, this is your moment, ladies! Everything else can wait.

3. I have newfound strength

Even though my stomach isn\’t flat and my hips aren\’t small, I feel like now, at 55, I\’m in the best physical shape of my life. When I started Jazzercise, I\’d pick up a lovely pair of 2.5-pound weights every day for the strength portion, which was my least favorite part of the class.

Soon, though, those seemed too easy and I moved down to four pounds, then five, then six. One day after class, a woman behind me commented that my back muscles were fine. What? did I have back muscles? I came home and looked in the mirror and sure enough, I had definition that I\’ve never had before.

With the onset of menopause and hot flashes, this portion of the standing strength class quickly became my favorite part of the hour. (Seven pounds, here I am.)

I have noticed this physical strength in other areas of my life as well. I can easily squat down now to change the kitty litter. I can touch my toes, balance on one leg, and walk up the stairs at home without panting.

4. My stamina has increased

Some of the Jazzercise moves were familiar to me, like the leg raises and crunches. But I had never done kickboxing, yoga or pilates before. Different movements work different muscles and there were days where I could feel it all over.

One day we did a floor routine on our back where we had to raise and lower our legs, never letting them touch the floor. I couldn\’t do it. I phoned him. A few days later, I was able to hold it for a few seconds and after two weeks I was able to do the whole routine. I had built up my resistance, little by little. I can now keep up with my husband on our occasional hikes.

5. The group provides emotional support

As a married mother of two, my family life involves a lot of testosterone. The older I get, the more I appreciate female company.

After my mother passed, returning to Jazzercise was the first step towards my recovery and getting back to a normal routine. People noticed I was gone and welcomed me back. This group of women provides a sense of community and camaraderie.

There have been days where an instructor will yell, we get it! or, you can do difficult things! and that\’s just what I need to hear.

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

And there is no judgement. One woman had had enough one day and she just sat on the floor in the middle of class. We made sure she was okay and then continued dancing. She needed a moment. And we all understood.

6. Jazzercise is my way of moving without pain

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

Now that I\’ve found something I love to do, I do it constantly. There are women in my class who have been doing this for 40 years. A friend recently pointed out to me that she missed college days when we all went out clubbing every weekend. I miss dancing, she said.

Not me. Every day I go to a dance party.

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

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