NIA, formerly known as neuromuscular integrative technique, is a gentle exercise program developed in California in 1983. It combines various fitness disciplines and focuses on body awareness, natural movement, and modifying exercises to suit all fitness levels. NIA classes can vary and include different music genres. The program gained popularity in the 1990s and 2000s, and certification is required to teach it. Classes range from $10 to $20 USD, and it’s recommended to consult a doctor and inform the instructor of any physical limitations.
NIA, which previously stood for neuromuscular integrative technique and is now better known as non-impact aerobics, is an exercise program developed in 1983, in Santa Rosa, California, by Carlos and Debbie Rosas. In the early 1980s, as dance aerobics classes began to become popular, some people found the practice potentially too difficult to perform. The thumping music and instructors urging people to work hard might seem jarring to some, and injuries weren’t uncommon, especially with high-impact work.
The Rosas sought to change this by putting together a more “gentle” program in the NIA technique that integrated a number of fitness disciplines but still created a healthy, calorie-burning workout. Many disciplines are included in the NIA technique, but they all include the idea that anyone taking an NIA course must remain firmly grounded in awareness of their body. Doing what feels natural and good, and modifying exercises as needed so all fitness levels can participate helps people maintain body awareness, focusing less on pain and gain and more on natural movement.
Disciplines used to create hour-long NIA classes include yoga, tai chi, aerobics, modern dance, and martial arts. One instructor gently invites people to move in different directions, often conjuring up metaphors of nature to help people express movement in their own way. The music used is equally variable and eclectic. A number of different types can be featured in a NIA technique lesson, including jazz, drumming traditions from Africa, contemporary music, and a variety of other types.
Although Rosas’ NIA technique was initially known to only a few, interest in the program increased in the 1990s, and even more so in the 2000s. In addition to finding courses in your area, Rosas’ company now sells tapes training cards, music collections and even earrings. The company also requires certification for anyone who would teach NIA classes. There are both online courses and mentor courses that help people practice this new aerobic tradition.
Each individual NIA technique class may vary. Some focus more specifically on getting your heart rate up through a variety of feel-good movements. Others may focus on stretching the body or working a specific muscle group. Prices for classes range from $10 to $20 US Dollars (USD), although if you belong to a gym that offers NIA Technique classes, you may not have to pay any extra fees. Studios that offer these classes may offer discounts if you purchase a set of classes.
While the NIA is considered to be suitable for many levels of fitness, it’s a good idea to consult a doctor before starting an exercise program, especially if it’s been a while since you last exercised. You should also let the class instructor know if you are new to the NIA technique or if you have any physical limitations. Instructors are usually very good at adapting modified movements for people new to this form of aerobic exercise and will encourage you to listen and pay attention to how your body responds to each type of movement so you don’t overdo it.