At WiseGEEK, we're committed to delivering accurate, trustworthy information. Our expert-authored content is rigorously fact-checked and sourced from credible authorities. Discover how we uphold the highest standards in providing you with reliable knowledge.

Learn more...

What Are '80s Aerobics?

Andrea Cross
Andrea Cross

The term '80s aerobics refers to classes that are based on those popular in the 1980s. The moves are based on the original classes, and participants are encouraged to wear workout clothes similar to those worn at that time while performing to the sounds of era-appropriate music. As well as classes to attend, there are a number of instructional videos on the Internet, allowing people to perform this type of aerobics in their own homes.

The emphasis of '80s aerobics was on cardio, weight loss, and toning, with "feel the burn" being a very popular mantra. Intended for both men and women, these classes are carried out with a lead instructor. The high-energy routines consist of a set of choreographed moves and combine elements of calisthenics and dance with athletic maneuvers.

Aerobics classes in the 80's often used boom boxes.
Aerobics classes in the 80's often used boom boxes.

Similar to standard aerobics classes, '80s aerobics uses an instructor who stands at the front of the class. The instructor first explains and demonstrates the moves of the routine. The class then follows his or her lead, combining singular moves into an eventual complex routine. The class is often carried out in front of a mirror, so that the participants can watch themselves and evaluate the moves they are performing.

Cassette tapes were probably the most popular way to listen to music in the 80s.
Cassette tapes were probably the most popular way to listen to music in the 80s.

Many classes encourage participants to dress the part, imitating the classes led by instructors such as Jane Fonda and Richard Simmons. The garb considered appropriate for '80s aerobics includes Spandex or Lycra leotards, leggings, and legwarmers, all in vivid shades of neon. Terrycloth wristbands and headbands are also useful, especially when breaking a sweat. Baggy, cropped sweatshirts are also a popular choice due to the often unforgiving nature of Spandex. Running shoes are usually necessary to help provide traction during the routines, but big hair, fabulous earrings, and multicolored eye shadow are optional.

In most classes, the moves are based on the originals. This tends to involve the entire body and requires near-constant movement. Typical moves include lunges, hip-swiveling, and pelvic thrusts. The legs are also highly utilized, performing high kicks, steps, and jumps. Squatting, vigorous arm movements, and stretching in all directions with all body parts are all a large part of the athletic routines.

No '80s aerobics class would be complete without '80s music. Popular staple artists include Madonna, Michael Jackson, and George Michael. Blondie, Dead or Alive, and the GoGos are also common choices. The music, like the aerobics itself, is pop orientated and upbeat and less intensively beat-driven than the techno music that is often played in more standard classes.

Discussion Comments


I laughed when I read the section of the article where it says that many aerobics classes encourage participants to dress the part. I think one of the reasons the 80s are considered so bad in terms of fashion is because of the multicolored eye shadow, the Lycra leotards, leggings, headbands, Spandex and all of the other fashion choices related to the aerobics craze.

If we could have only seen ourselves back then as our children see the 80s fashions then we would have saved ourselves so much embarrassment when we look through the family photo albums.


I have been taking several of the recently offered dance classes at the local workout center. The center has been offering a variety of dance classes, exercise classes and yoga classes as a way to get more people interested in working out at the facility and staying in shape.

So far, I have taken a jazz dance class, a swing class and one of the yoga and meditation classes. They have all been a lot of fun. In fact, I have been having so much fun that it doesn't even seem like I am in exercise class.

One of the classes for next month is an eighties aerobics class, and I am considering giving this a try. I bet this will be a really good workout.


I am a child of the 80s. By this I mean that the 80s were my formative years in terms of my musical tastes. I was in high school and college both during the 80s, and I remember all of the musical groups mentioned in the last paragraph of this article. I agree that no conversation regarding the 80s could possibly be considered complete without several references to Madonna and Michael Jackson.

When I think of aerobics and the 80s, I immediately think of some of the videos from this time. Both Pat Benatar and Olivia Newton John had popular aerobic themed videos during this period.

Post your comments
Forgot password?
    • Aerobics classes in the 80's often used boom boxes.
      By: BEAUTYofLIFE
      Aerobics classes in the 80's often used boom boxes.
    • Cassette tapes were probably the most popular way to listen to music in the 80s.
      By: Alexey Arkhipov
      Cassette tapes were probably the most popular way to listen to music in the 80s.