Health Care

Rhythm and Jazz: 1980s craze still a great workout

Robin Sullivan focuses as she works out during a Jazzercise class Feb. 8 at Omni Health and Fitness in Beaufort.
Robin Sullivan focuses as she works out during a Jazzercise class Feb. 8 at Omni Health and Fitness in Beaufort. Jonathan Dyer/The Beaufort Gazette

Jazzercise was a foreign concept to Robin Sullivan.

Sullivan had not exercised in 10 years. She's a single mother with two school-age kids and a full-time job. Exercise fell by the wayside. But she recently stopped smoking and gained a bit of weight. She was discussing exercise with her college-age baby-sitter who mentioned Jazzercise. "At first I was like, 'What is Jazzercise? What is this?'" Sullivan said.


Jazzercise has been around since the late '60s when dance instructor Judi Sheppard Missett developed it as a way for her students to get a feeling for dance but with an emphasis on fitness. Jazzercise got caught up in a wave of growing popularity of dance aerobics in the '70s and '80s. Numerous videocassettes were released, making it a nationwide craze.

Jazzercise is probably most associated with the '80s, but the exercise routine didn't die along with the leg warmers and neon tights. The business continued to grow over the past several decades. In fact, 2008 was the company's most ssful year with sales topping $93 million in 32 countries. It's legacy can be found in similar classes, such as the Latin-influenced Zumba, which also combines fitness concepts with dance moves.


The program itself is an hourlong class with coordinated moves that combine cardio fitness and strength training to the pumping beat of popular music. At first, the concept was a bit intimidating to Sullivan.

"At first I was like, 'No way. I'm not that coordinated,'<2009>" she said.

She started last summer. The moves took a while to get the hang of, but she started to come around. By fall, she kicked up her schedule, attending classes at Omni Health & Fitness Center in Beaufort. She now goes five or six days a week after work. Her classes with instructor Betsy Kelley are different depending on the day.

Jazzercise Inc. provides each instructor with 30 routines five times a year, meaning instructors can mix and match to provide a different class depending on the day.

"You will never get the same wor which means you will never plateau," Kelley said. "We are always changing things up to get the most effective workout."


Kelley said an individual can typically burn about 600 calories in an hourlong class.

Sullivan says since she's started, she's lost 10 pounds and 10 inches off her waist. She sleeps better and has more energy.

"Anybody can do it, that's what's good about it," she said. "It's something I can do for a lifetime."