Let’s get physical...

Dig out your legwarmers and crank up your ghetto blaster because exercise is going retro. Aerobics classes are as popular as ever, and at the grand age of 72, Jane Fonda is set to release a new exercise DVD. EMMA LEE prepares to feel the burn at the Sportspark.

From breakfast TV's lycra-clad Green Goddess and Mad Lizzie Webb encouraging viewers to get off the sofa and get active at the crack of dawn, to Jane Fonda's multi-million selling keep fit videos, if you wanted a workout, you had to feel the burn.

And prepare to dig out your legwarmers and crank up that ghetto blaster, because exercise is going retro.

Aerobics is making a comeback. Later this autumn Jane Fonda, who looks just fabulous at 72, releases a new exercise DVD. And there has been a surge in the popularity of aerobics classes, which in their mid 80s heyday had an estimated 22 million Americans hooked.

Always keen to be on trend, Life Matters headed to the Sportspark at the University of East Anglia to try out a step class.

First the science bit. Aerobics was developed by exercise physiologist Dr Kenneth Cooper and physical therapist Colonel Pauline Potts of the San Antonio US Air Force Hospital in 1968.

Aerobics literally means 'with air' and classes are designed to get the heart and lungs pumping, help burn off body fat and improve the body's strength, shape and tone.

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Actress Jane Fonda became the face of aerobics and the burgeoning home keep fit video market in the early 80s. She took up aerobics after being injured during filming, using it as an alternative to ballet. She attended classes by fitness guru Leni Cazden and began to develop her own workout.

In 1982 she released her first exercise video and it was a sensation, selling 17 million copies. Since then she's notched up more than 20 video releases, with another going on sale later this year.

In the UK, early aerobics champions included Diana Moran, who was dubbed the Green Goddess for her trademark all-in-one catsuit and appeared on the BBC's Breakfast Time programme. 'Mad Lizzie' Webb, who preferred to wear jazzy sweatshirts, appeared on ITV's rival early morning show TV-am and was often accompanied by Joggy Bear.

And the early 1990s saw the arrival of Derrick Errol Evans, AKA Mr Motivator, on our screens.

There are a variety of aerobics classes on offer at the Sportspark. Led by a qualified instructor and set to music, they're designed to cater for all levels of fitness.

These include low-impact, which focus on floor-based exercises that don't put so much pressure on your joints; body conditioning, which focus on intensive, low-impact exercises and may include some light, high-repetition weight training and Latin dance, which is a fun mixed impact class. There are also body toning classes and a session specially tailored for those over 50.

Life Matters went to a step aerobics class. Incorporating a low platform into the routine, step classes are said to be particularly beneficial for developing and strengthening muscles in the legs, spine and hips, strengthening bones and helping with co-ordination.

Maria Rowe, assistant director at Sportspark, says that aerobics classes are a perfect stepping stone to getting back into the gym if your fitness regime has lapsed.

'It requires a fair bit of effort, but at the same time injects a little fun into getting back into exercise after a break from the workout routine.

'Support from your instructor and fellow classmates helps maintain motivation,' she says.

The Tuesday night session attended by Life Matters was led by Jackie, and it really puts you through your paces.

The warm up is followed by the high energy aerobics part of the class, to a pumping dance music soundtrack, which really gets you working up a sweat -– especially if (and we're speaking from personal experience here) you've let your fitness regime go a little during the summer holidays. We spent quite a lot of the lesson watching our feet and trying to master the moves, but newbies are encouraged to go at their own pace and not over-exert themselves. And you won't be sent to the back of the class if you find yourself stepping in the wrong direction. That's followed by some work with hand weights and stretching. After the class we really felt a sense of achievement and could see how aerobics could get addictive. It's fun and a great alternative to going for a run, especially as the nights start to draw in and the weather takes a turn for the worse.

We might not quite be Jane Fonda yet, but it's a step in the right direction.

For more information about aerobics classes call the Sportspark on 01603 592398.