At 50, Jazzercise Has Staying Power in Eugene And Globally

Jul 5, 2019

This June marked the 50th anniversary of an exercise program that makes most people think of leotards and leg warmers. But, Jazzercise still has a loyal following and is going strong all over the world. We visited a class in Eugene.

About 2 dozen women in workout clothes face instructor Liz Schneider, who leads them through moves from a stage at the front of the room. The music has a driving beat, and the women are smiling as they step, jump, skip and march.

This is Eugene Jazzercise, in a strip mall on Coburg Road.

Schneider says she discovered Jazzercise more than 10 years ago, when she was a college student in Denver, Colorado. “And I fell in love with it immediately.”

Schneider says she got certified as an instructor and then moved to Eugene. She and her friend Nancy Bigley took over Jazzercise Eugene 6 years ago. She says people who come here feel accepted.

“I think just being able to move to music in a non-judgmental, safe environment.” Schneider says,  “There’s very little mirrors if any in most studios. The instructor is facing you and cueing you and telling you what to do so you feel successful.”

Jazzercise was started by Judi Sheppard Missett in 1969 in Carlsbad, California. It’s a combination of dance, cardio and strength with popular music.

Like many fitness programs, more women do Jazzercise than men. Schneider says many of the moves are more catered to the way women move. But not all. “I have seen an increase in our male student base. But we still are predominantly women.”

Nadia Barrett attends class daily, sometimes 3 times a day.
Credit Eugene Jazzercise

Nadia Barrett is a class regular.  “I come 7 days a week. Sometimes 3 times a day.” She says.

Barrett is 75 years old. Why has she been doing this for 41 years?

“Well, I love Jazzercise.” She says,  “I was an instructor for over 20 years. And, I tried other programs throughout the years, but Jazzercise is the best. It’s a full fitness. You work every part of your body.”

Barrett has arthritis and has had knee replacements but that doesn’t stop her.  “To  keep fit, keep going. You have to exercise and keep moving. Otherwise, you just kind of freeze.”

For many students who keep coming back, the appeal of Jazzercise is the way it makes them feel at the end of an hour-long class.  “I love to dance so that’s mainly it. People are great. It’s a great work out. Stress reliever. I just love it. It’s my outlet.” Says student Cindy Sandquist.

"Fun. Rewarding.” Says student Kathy Hurst. “I love Jazzercise. I would never choose anything else. I’ve tried gym and the gym I have to have a structure.”  

Kathy Hurst is a Jazzercise regular.
Credit Eugene Jazzercise

“It’s just sort of, almost therapy.” Class Manager Lori Umenhofer says,  “Almost like a good massage for the brain. You’re working out at the same time but you don’t feel like you’re working out and exercising. You’re actually having fun.”

Last weekend, a group of Eugene instructors went to Carlsbad to join a huge celebration of Jazzercises 50th anniversary. The event included what else, a Jazzercise class, with founder Judi Missett and her daughter who now runs the company.

Copyright 2019 KLCC.