Step was first designed by Gin Miller whose primary goal was to develop a low impact, cardiovascular workout that was safe for knees and other injuries. Since the early 1990’s, this class format has changed considerably, including the speed, intensity and impact. Below are 4 guidelines to assist you during a typical step class to ensure that your pelvic floor is not compromised.
Decrease the impact. Step was traditionally a low impact program and there are many that still are, but there are also step workouts where leaping and jumping are a primary way of developing intensity. Power jumps on the step can be simply eliminated by just performing the step action without the jump. Leaping along the length of the step can be negotiated by either standing behind the step and stepping in to the centre of the step and off on an angle or by turning the step around so that you are stepping across the width of the step. Any jumping off or onto the step should be avoided. Instead, perform a stepping up and down action as a substitute.
Rhythm changes. This is when the stepping action is a skipping action, or it is a slow and quick stepping action rather than the constant stepping up and down action. These moves can be variable regarding the level of comfort for the pelvic floor, but if there is concern, perform either the same move without the rhythm change or march on the floor to substitute the movement pattern.
Arm actions. Adding upper body movements will certainly elevate heart rate but it can also add more load on the pelvic floor. If this is the case, a simple modification is keep the arms below should height or simply remove any excessive upper body actions.
Lower step height. Step workouts were designed so that the individual could choose which height was appropriate for their individual fitness levels. Depending on the make of the step, you will have a choice of 3 heights which you can also modify during the workout. If you are unsure on how to change the height – some steps look like Lego pieces, as the instructor as they will be able to show how you can simply shift the blocks to decrease the height. The recommendation is that the lower the step height, the less pressure on the pelvic floor. If you in the high risk category (pre or postnatal, pre or post-menopausal or starting exercise) chose the lowest possible height.
Step workouts are fun and different from most other workouts because you have your own personal space on and around your step and are a great workout. Implement the alternatives above and enjoy a pelvic floor safe workout.