The ’80s-Inspired Fitness Staple That Motivates Rose Byrne to Work Out


Sometimes working out can feel like a chore. Other times it can feel like an exciting endeavor. One big determinant of whether you love or loathe your workout is what type of exercise you’re doing. Choose something you genuinely enjoy, and chances are you’ll have a much more positive experience both during and after your routine.

For actor Rose Byrne, aerobics workouts—yep, the same ones you might associate with step risers, leotards, and brightly colored leg warmers—fall into the category of exercise she actually loves. The Emmy and Golden Globe nominee first embraced this old-school form of exercise last year while training for the role of Sheila in Physical, a new series that premiered on June 18 on AppleTV+. (Check out the trailer here.) Set in San Diego in the 1980s, Physical chronicles Sheila’s journey as a struggling housewife who finds release and empowerment through aerobics.

To play the part, Byrne completed about three months of aerobics training via Zoom during the pandemic, and she tells SELF she absolutely loved the workout modality.

With aerobics, Byrne tells SELF, she feels a rush from all those endorphins: “I never regretted doing one of those classes. They were always fantastic.”

She trained twice weekly with aerobics classes, which were dance-inspired and included dynamic stretching at the beginning. Byrne logged in from her home in Australia, and her choreographer, Jennifer Hamilton, tuned in from California. As the training progressed, Byrne says she got stronger and more adept at the choreographed moves, shifting from low-impact exercises to higher-impact, higher-energy routines. That evolution, Byrne says, mirrored Sheila’s development in the show.

“She starts aerobics and she’s not particularly good at it or confident, and then she slowly becomes more accomplished and more accomplished,” says Byrne. In fact, for Sheila, aerobics ends up being “a way out of a crisis point in her life.”

Aerobics had an impact on Byrne too (albeit a less dramatic one). Describing herself as “lazy” in regard to exercise, she says aerobics training helped motivate her to work out and that she felt “fantastic” afterward.

Interested in aerobics and how you can get started with this exercise modality? Keep scrolling—we’ve got everything you need to know.

What is aerobics?

Aerobics is a form of exercise involving choreographed, rhythmic routines of dynamic movements set to music. As the name suggests, “aerobics” is classified as aerobic exercise, meaning it delivers cardio and “gets your large muscle groups working,” Christa DiPaolo, a certified personal trainer based in Miami and creator of Boxing and Bubbles at-home workouts, tells SELF. Aerobics relies on your aerobic energy system, which uses oxygen to fuel your muscles—it’s the same system that powers activities including jogging, cycling, and other non-HIIT workouts.

The type of aerobics in Physical is dance-inspired and specific to the ’80s. Modern-day aerobics, on the other hand, includes a broader category of classes—from cardio kickboxing to choreographed indoor cycling classes to Zumba routines and more. In fact, “most of the classes that you’re going to find online and at the gym are aerobics classes,” says DiPaolo. Any class that combines cardio and choreography fits the bill, even if they aren’t labeled “aerobics” classes.

What are the benefits of aerobics workouts?

The benefits of aerobics workouts are, well, aerobic: Regular aerobic exercise can improve heart function and cholesterol levels, as well as increase stamina, fitness, and strength (among other benefits), according to the Mayo Clinic.

Exercise in general, especially cardiovascular forms, can also have mental health benefits. One of DiPaolo’s favorite reasons to do aerobics is the mood boost she says it provides. Indeed, a meta-analysis published in Psychology of Sport and Exercise reviewed 158 studies and concluded that bouts of aerobic exercises can increase people’s self-reported mental states for at least 30 minutes after their sessions.

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