Whether or not Billy Blanks’ Tae-Bo workout tapes have anything to do with it, exercise enthusiasts across the country are demanding cardio kickboxing classes at their neighborhood fitness centers. At gyms across the country, the classes are the hottest thing going, and now, thanks to a recent study by the America Council on Exercise (ACE), consumers can be assured they are getting a good aerobic workout.

The ACE study, the first publicly released research about the physiological effects and benefits of cardio kickboxing, found that the activity provides and workout sufficient enough to improve and maintain cardiovascular fitness.

To perform the study, Len Kravitz, Ph.D., headed a team of researchers from the University of Mississippi. They measured heart rate, caloric consumption, oxygen consumption and ratings of perceived exertion for each of four kickboxing concentrations: upper-body predominant (e.g., upper cuts, jabs); lower-body predominant (e.g., roundhouse kicks, front and back kicks); combination of upper and lower body; and conditioning (e.g., jumping jacks, simulated rope jumping).

Participants in the study – 15 women with an average weight of 135 pounds – burned the most calories while performing a combination of upper and lower body movements. Overall, caloric expenditure ranged from 6.45 calories per minute (with predominantly upper-body exercises) to 8.3 calories per minute (with upper/lower body combination).

The calorie findings indicate that most cardio kickboxing participants can expect to burn an average of 350 to 450 calories per hour – less than original estimates, but enough to be considered a good workout.

“Original estimates suggested that cardio kickboxing can burn up to 500 to 800 per hour,” ACE’s Chief Exercise Physiologist, Richard Cotton said. “Realistically, only a very large person exerting an above-average amount of energy for an extended period of time would be able to do that.”

Burning 350-450 calories, and hour-long cardio kickboxing session is roughly equivalent to an hour of brisk walking or light jogging. Cardio kickboxing, however, provides additional benefits not associated with walking or jogging such as increased strength and flexibility, as well as improved coordination and sharper reflexes.

Participants in the study also maintained a heart rate of 75-85 percent of maximum, well within the recommended 65-85 percent range for aerobic exercise.