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Farewell then Jane Fonda

If your image of aerobics is of evening classes full of middle-aged lycra-encased Jane Fonda look-alikes pounding the floor to an 80s beat, then think again - it is probably heading for a school near you. It is being offered as part of key stage 4 PE, which requires students to plan, perform, monitor and evaluate a health-related exercise programme.

Nina Lancaster, who has launched a website to support would-be aerobics teachers, says the activity is increasingly popular, especially with people who don't like competitive games.

"Aerobics is a great activity for improving both cardiovascular fitness and muscle strength and endurance. In many secondary schools, it is proving to be a very appealing alternative to outdoor games, especially among KS4 girls," she says.

The former head of PE at a Leeds secondary school, Nina Lancaster started teaching aerobics 15 years ago in the US. "It was only when I studied the YMCA exercise to music qualification that I realised I knew very little about teaching aerobics. I was so inspired and motivated by the course that I was determined to become a tutor," she says.

In July, she set up CardioKidz and has produced a set of resources to show how young people can progress through a series of exercise regimes. It also gives advice on teaching the techniques.

"Young people can suffer long-term injuries if the regime concentrates too much on high impact exercise, so it is vital that it is taught properly," says Nina Lancaster.

Aerobics, she says, can be tailored to different needs and abilities. There are many low-impact moves which involve keeping one foot on the ground.

Intensity of exercise comes with work rate, not with how high one jumps.

Apart from fitting into the GCSE syllabus, Nina Lancaster maintains that aerobics has special advantages for busy PE departments: "It's a very inclusive activity but also a very practical one. It takes very little space and uses the minimum of equipment. Many schools use aerobics lessons when outdoor games have to be cancelled in bad weather."

She also finds that young people really get the aerobics bug: "Often a teacher I am working with will introduce some basic steps only to find that the students have worked out ideas of their own. And it's something they can carry on with at home."

The resource pack helps teachers build up an exercise programme from basic steps to complex choreography. It provides lesson plans and ideas on how aerobics can be incorporated across the curriculum. Music is one of the most attractive features of this exercise regime. Teachers can choose their own song list, she says, but there is always a danger of some plodding tune coming in just when the work rate should increase.

It's for this reason that Cardiokidz will shortly bring out its own CD compilation, but don't hold your breath for any 80s classics.

CardioKidz Tel: 0113 274 7000

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