Dr. Kenneth H. Cooper, a physician at the San Antonio Air Force Hospital in Texas, devised a form of exercise that helped to prevent coronary artery disease. He called this system Aerobics. These exercises were initially invented for astronauts and they were carefully monitored for pulse rate and oxygen consumption.
Later, it was observed that these types of exercises were also useful for the general population and thus came about the different forms of aerobics such as dance aerobics, step aerobics, water aerobics etc.
Cooper published a book called `Aerobics` in the year 1968. It included scientific exercise programs using running, walking, swimming and bicycling. This book became an instant success as it came at a time when the American population were starting to face the ill effects off the sedentary lifestyle they had grown used to due to the advent of the many comforts that technology provided.
During the next two decades, aerobic dance and exercise in various forms spread throughout the United States and into other countries. The number of aerobic participants in the U.S alone grew from an estimated 6 million in 1978 to 22 million in 1987.
In 1983, Howard and Karen Schwartz organized Sport Fitness International (SFI) to oversee a new competitive sport they had developed, known as sport aerobics.
The first world championships were held at San Diego in March of 1990 with athletes from 15 countries competing.
Sport aerobics originally featured competition in four categories: Individual male, female, mixed pairs, and trio, which can include any three athletes. In 2002, competition was added for groups of six athletes. Competitors are judged on a one-minute, 45-second routine done to music. Judges use two criteria, artistic merit and technical merit, with a maximum of 10 points each.
The Federation Internationale Gymnastique formally adopted sport aerobics as a gymnastics discipline in the year 1996 after their first world championship in 1995.