Changing Lives, One Move at a Time

by Mary Monroe on Oct 01, 2007

When Kenneth H. Cooper, MD, MPH, famously coined the term “aerobics” in 1968, Jacki Sorensen took his program and set it to music. Aerobic dance was born, and Sorenson’s creative fitness moves are still changing lives all over the globe.

Jacki Sorensen is credited with originating one of the most significant fitness movements in history: aerobic dance—the combination of fitness and dance that swept the world in the ‘70s before evolving into the multifaceted group exercise classes of today.

Thirty-eight years later, Sorensen still lives and breathes choreography, creating over 150 routines a year for her fitness programs, which are taught in the United States, Puerto Rico, Japan, Australia, Vietnam and Russia.

Sorensen is president and founder of Jacki’s Inc., headquartered in DeLand, Florida. Her three popular cardiovascular programs, Aerobic Dance, Aerobic Workout, and StrongStep, feature new music and choreography four times a year to keep routines fresh, fun and challenging.

“Business just keeps bubbling along, and that’s a blessing,” says Sorensen, who barely has time to take a break between developing new choreography and spending time with her husband and business partner, Neil, who had a bone marrow transplant this year. “Helping him make a full recovery is my passion right now,” she says. “He’s my hero and the love of my life.”

Sorensen’s energy and enthusiasm translate into her programming, which clearly keeps people coming back, sometimes for decades. In fact, she attributes the success of her programs to her high retention rate. “Many of our students and instructors have been with us for 20 or 30 years,” she notes. “My message to people who are just starting out is to make your programs safe and effective first, but then work hard to keep them exciting, entertaining and fun.”

Barbara Bau, Granada Hills, California, an instructor who teaches Sorensen’s routines, says of Sorensen’s unique programs, “Every session is like a Broadway show, due to Jacki’s genius. Her choreography makes it possible for the nondancer to dance, get a workout, improve health and feel like a star.”

Not surprisingly, Sorensen started out with a broad background in dance, including tap, ballet, modern, acrobatic, Hawaiian and jazz. While working on her bachelor’s degree, she began her career teaching dance classes at officers’ wives clubs on various Air Force bases. In 1969, she was asked to develop a fitness television program for Air Force wives at a base in Puerto Rico where Neil was stationed.

When the Sorensens later moved to New Jersey, she introduced the first aerobic dance class at a local YMCA, and within 3 months, her class of six grew to two classes of 25 students each. The program rapidly expanded to other YMCAs, Bloomfield College and Seton Hall University.

“Movement is life and you can’t be living life to its fullest unless you’re as physically fit as you can possibly be,” says Sorensen, whose strong belief in physical fitness has made her a leading voice in the industry over the last 30 years. In 1985, she was awarded IDEA’s first Lifetime Achievement Award, and was inducted into Club Industry’s Hall of Fame a year later. She has been recognized by the American Heart Association, Special Olympics and United Cerebral Palsy for her contributions. Earlier this year, she was inducted into the National Fitness Hall of Fame. Sorensen is also the author of two best-selling books, Aerobic Dancingand Jacki Sorensen’s Aerobic Lifestyle Book. She has lectured extensively on health and fitness to groups throughout the world.

“The fitness industry has learned the importance of education and motivation to get and keep people fit,” says Sorensen. “The biggest personal and business lesson that I’ve learned over the years is that my life is one of service. I think what I’ve enjoyed most are the responses and stories of our students and instructors. And my hope for the future is that today’s youth will grow up to realize that regular exercise and good nutrition are as necessary to their health as brushing their teeth. You can’t store physical fitness, so you’ve got to work activity into every week of your life.”

IDEA Fitness Journal, Volume 4, Issue 9

© 2007 by IDEA Health & Fitness Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction without permission is strictly prohibited.

About the Author

Mary Monroe IDEA Author/Presenter

Mary Monroe is a freelance writer in the Los Angeles area.

1 Comment

  • Log In to Comment
  • Sanjit Mandal

    I should make my slogan for my karate program (www.trivalleykarate.com) "changing lives one punch at a time" :)
    Commented Feb 08, 2013

Trending Articles

How to Teach HIIT to Everyone

High-intensity interval training has been riding a wave of popularity, and it seems everyone wants to give it a try. However, intense interval training is nothing new. Group fitness instructors have b...

Nuts and Peanuts Reduce Cardiovascular Risk and Prolong Lifespan

While there have been numerous studies in recent years touting the health benefits of nuts and peanuts, new research published online March ...

20 IDEA World-Renowned Presenters Share Advice on Success and Happiness

We asked some of this year’s most influential and motivating IDEA World Fitness Convention™ presenters to share the single piece of advice they would give another fitness/health pro to hel...

Mindful Walking

Walking can be more than just moving physically from one location to another. It can be a metaphor for your larger life journey. Things you&...

Smooth Move: Creative Additions to Consider for Smoothies

When looking for a quick breakfast or post-workout nourishment, almost nothing beats a smoothie. Whirl in the right ingredients and the blen...

Yes, You CAN Develop Better Eating Habits

Analogous to laying out your exercise gear so it’s the first visual reminder you have of your commitment to exercise each day, imagine...

Cut Risk of Alzheimer’s with MIND Diet

Conservative adherence to a new diet, appropriately known by the acronym MIND, could significantly lower a person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, according to a paper published o...

7 Ways to Help a Client Boost Adherence

Once a client has decided to make nutritional changes to support weight loss, you can play a key role in developing an action plan that is m...

Rice-Cooking Technique Cuts Calorie Absorption in Half

In a molecular gastronomy-meets-lab-science moment, researchers at the College of Chemical Sciences in Colombo, Sri Lanka, have discovered a...

Recipe for Health: Picadillo-Stuffed Peppers

If you don’t believe that authentic Mexican cookery is “whole” and healthy, you need to take a deep dive into Mexico: The Cookbook (Phaidon 2014), the first truly comprehensive bible...

Show More