Jazzercise grows up

Forget leg warmers and headbands; fast-paced program provides safe, intense, full-body workout

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian health reporter



Do you Jazzercise?

  • Yes. I love Jazzercise! 80%
  • Not since '87. 7%
  • Nope. Never tried it. 11%
  • What's Jazzercise? 2%

325 total votes.

photoErin Fowler participates in a Jazzercise class at LaCamas Swim & Sport in Camas on Wednesday. Fowler started taking the class a few months ago because the class incorporates dance, an aerobic workout and muscle toning.


The leggings have been replaced with cropped athletic pants, the neon-colored leotards with fitness tank tops.

Ankle socks and tennis shoes have taken the place of leg warmers and bare feet.


Visit the Jazzercise website, www.jazzercise.com, for class schedules and rates and for more information about all Clark County classes.

Two local Jazzercise owners are offering free classes in March:

• Jazzercise with Lisa Ackerman at LaCamas Swim & Sport, 2950 N.W. 38th Ave., Camas. Weekend classes are free in March.

• Jazzercise with Sue Thompson at Hockinson Middle School, 15916 N.E. 182nd Ave., and Bold Training, 819 S.E. 14th Loop, Suite 101, in Battle Ground. Monday classes are free in March.

And headbands are virtually nonexistent.

"This ain't your momma's Jazzercise," said Lisa Ackerman, quoting a popular phrase among Jazzercisers. Ackerman is a Jazzercise franchise owner and instructor for 19 years.

For years, Jazzercise instructors like Ackerman have battled the stigma of the dance exercise phenomenon that was founded in 1969 and exploded in popularity in the 1980s. Over the years, the class has evolved, just like its fashion.

"Once people try it, they realize it's not the old-fashioned Jane Fonda type workout," Ackerman said. "Once people try it, most people come back."

The class still blends jazz dance, resistance training, Pilates, yoga and kickboxing. But today, the strength training exercises are more challenging and incorporate weights. The class tempo is also faster, said Sue Thompson, Jazzercise franchise owner and an instructor for 10 years.

The 60-minute classes are choreographed to modern music and include a warm-up, stretching, cardio and muscle toning; exercises can be modified to different ability levels.

"It's a good cardio workout," Ackerman said, comparing it to running. "It's that intense, if you want it to be."

Jazzercisers can burn up to 600 calories in a one-hour class, she said.

No time to rest

During one of Ackerman's recent classes at LaCamas Swim & Sport in Camas, about 35 people — two of whom were men — stood in rows, filling the center's group fitness studio. They moved in unison, dancing, kicking and squatting to the beat of the music, one song leading immediately into another and leaving no time to rest.

Maroon Five's "Lucky Strike" set the pace for uppercuts and jabs. They worked their triceps to the beat of Flo Rida's "Good Feeling." Their bodies pulsed in the squat position to Ke$ha's "Blow." The Black Keys' "Howlin' For You" set the pace for crunches.

Each class, no matter where it's located, uses the same music and choreography. Instructors build their classes using the established routines, which have been designed by trainers and dance professionals to prevent injury, Ackerman said. New songs, and routines, are incorporated every 10 weeks.

"Jazzercise is always changing," Ackerman said. "That's why, I think, Jazzercise has been around for 45-plus years."

Rose Knapp of Camas has taken Jazzercise classes for nearly 32 years. She started taking the class in the fall of 1981, donning leg warmers and headbands for every class.

She's stuck with the class throughout the years because it blends her love of dance with a full-body workout. One routine, she points out, includes 48 push-ups.

"I love it," Knapp said. "I always have."

Ackerman and Thompson were also participants before becoming instructors and franchise owners.

Thompson started taking Jazzercise classes after struggling to maintain other exercise routines. She wanted to lose some extra weight, but wasn't motivated to run on a treadmill or work out at a health club. Thompson heard about Jazzercise and decided to give it a try.

"And now I'm addicted," she said.

For Ackerman, who has always been a dancer, Jazzercise seemed like an obvious fitness choice. In the 23 years since, Ackerman has stayed faithful to Jazzercise, even the year she lived on a sailboat in the Caribbean. During those months, she danced in the boat's cockpit.

In the last two decades, Ackerman has watched Jazzercise evolve into a high-intensity, fun workout -- despite its leotard origins.

"We're constantly battling that leg-warmer stigma," she said.

Marissa Harshman: 360-735-4546; http://twitter.com/col_healthhttp://facebook.com/reporterharshmanmarissa.harshman@columbian.com