Study takes step in right direction

IF you are one of the four million Australians who go to a gym, you will be interested in the findings of an Orange-based study by Dr James Wickham that found step classes burnt the most kilojoules.

Dr Wickham, who lectures in anatomy and physiology at Charles Sturt University in Orange, has a keen interest in fitness and decided to put all the current gym classes to the test, including the popular stationary bike and power classes.

The study focused on energy expenditure and muscle activation in group fitness classes and was carried out at Integra Health Club using 10 volunteers.

Dr Wickham measured the muscle activity, heart rate and caloric expenditure of the participants as they did their 50-minute step, 45-minute ride and 50-minute power classes.

“The step class burned significantly more calories overall than the ride and power classes,” he said.

“If your goal is to burn calories and to lose weight you may want to consider a step class as it burned the absolute most calories, but on a calorie-per-minute basis there was no difference between the ride and step classes,” he said.

Dr Wickham said average heart rates for step and ride classes were also close, while calories burned and heart rates for power classes were significantly lower.

He conceded that over the years step classes had dipped in popularity, particularly with men,  due to the challenging choreography to get up, over and move around steps while keeping in time to music.

“The thing about a step class is that you can’t hide. When you rest everyone can see you, so there is a motivation to keep going,” he said.

However, Dr Wickham said men who wanted to go back to or take up step classes should not be put off.

“It takes a few times to really get the hang of it so it is worth persevering if you think you are less co-ordinated,” he said.

Dr Wickham said he undertook the study as there appeared to be confusion around the most effective exercise programs.

“I hope this study will help people make informed choices,” he said.

janice.harris@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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