According to the American Council on Exercise roughly one-third of American adults don't get the minimum amount of exercise recommended -- that's 2 1/2 hours of physical activity every week [Source: American Council on Exercise]. Whatever your excuse -- you don't have time, it's not fun, you're too uncoordinated -- it's time to put your reasons aside and make the time for … dance. Dance?
Dance is a great form of exercise. It's appropriate for all ages and all levels of fitness. It's a high-energy cardio workout that exercises the entire body, so it's good for burning calories and helping you lose weight.
Let's look at some numbers: A 150-pound person who participates in ballet for 30 minutes will burn about 215 calories. Thirty minutes of a faster, intense dance such as the salsa or Latin dances will burn about 200 calories. And slower dancing, such as the waltz, will burn about 100 calories in 30 minutes [Source: Dancescape].
Dance is also a good weight-bearing workout because it gets you on your feet and moving. Weight-bearing exercise helps increase your flexibility, muscle mass and bone density, which will in turn help to reduce your risk of bone fractures and of developing thin bones and osteoporosis as you age. It also reduces your risk of developing cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and other chronic diseases.
And if that's not enough, it also helps to elevate your mood, reduce stress, boost your self-esteem and may help to ward off dementia.
Depending on what type of results you're looking for, there is likely a dance workout routine made to suit you, from ballet-inspired to belly dancing-based. In fact, if you're not crazy about the idea of enrolling in a proper ballet class, for example, look for ballet-related options such as ballet barre or ballet boot camp, both of which target the toning of your arms, stomach, butt and thighs in addition to putting you through an intense cardio workout.
Similarly, workouts that borrow from belly dancing highly target the core muscles, resulting in tight abs with exercise moves far sexier than abdominal crunches. Let's look at some of the popular types of dance-fitness routines available and see how they compare with other forms of aerobic exercise. First up, one of the oldest forms of dance-fitness: Jazzercise.
Types of Dance Workout Routines
Aerobic workouts are some of the most popular forms of exercise – an estimated 24 million Americans participate in them [Source: American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine]. Dance is an aerobic workout, structured in a similar manner as other aerobic classes. While the dance style may vary, class structures are often quite similar. Typically class begins with a warm-up period, which may run anywhere from five to 30 minutes and include exercises to raise your temperature and blood flow, loosen and stretch your muscles. The warm-up period will transition into an intense dance routine intended to increase your heart rate and get you moving and sweating, ending with five to 10 minutes of cool-down exercises to help reduce muscle soreness.
Let's look at some of the most popular options. Jazzercise is a classic dance-fitness routine and one of the most well-known dance workouts. These hour-long classes (also available on DVDs to use at home) combine jazz dance with strength training, as well as Pilates, yoga and even some elements of kickboxing, all set to today's current music, from popular Top 40 songs to country and everything in between.
If you're looking for upbeat and intense, look for Zumba, belly dancing, swing or salsa dancing classes. Zumba, for example, is a workout done to a Latin beat (although some classes will have you sweating to hip-hop and other energetic music). It combines calorie-burning cardio with a core muscle workout and interval training to help tone and sculpt your body.
For those in search of a different type of intensity in their dance workout, look for Yoga Trance Dance or Nia classes. Yoga Trance Dance is a free-flowing exercise that combines yoga poses, meditation and free-form movement channeled into collective energy. Nia, on the other hand, is a workout made up of 52 movements that combine dance, martial arts and healing arts, and it works your core muscles and upper extremities.
Dance-fitness classes are available for beginners, intermediate and advanced fitness levels, and some provide more of a workout than others. If you've let exercise slide off your calendar or are looking for a new type of workout, read on for tips on how to find the right dance workout for you.
Tips for Finding the Right Dance Workout Routine
While you may think Zumba, for instance, looks like a good workout and a good time, there are a few things to consider before signing up for a class: your age, your health and your fitness level. These three things are key to figuring out what type of dance-fitness -- and physical activity in general -- is best for you.
Let's look at Jazzercise again. Jazzercise is a dance-fitness program that has been around for decades -- since 1969 -- and it's available in many communities in all 50 states (as well as in 32 countries). There are several types of Jazzercise class formats, including routines that are low impact and one designed for kids. Routines are tailored for your age, how fit you are or if you're healing from an injury or illness.
A study conducted at the Breast Cancer Survivorship Center at the University of Kansas found that participating actively in Jazzercise classes over a two-year period helped breast cancer survivors drop body fat as well as blood pressure and insulin levels [Source: Varon].
Maintaining good overall fitness -- no matter which dance workout routine you choose -- can help reduce your risk of developing certain cancers, but maintaining your health and fitness level in the face of cancer may also help survival rates.
And it's not just the more intense dance-fitness routines that offer such good mind-body benefits. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that people who participated in ballroom dancing a minimum of two times per week had a reduced risk of developing dementia, including Alzheimer's disease [Source: AARP].
Look for classes at your local gym or at a local dance school or community center. Some types of dance, like ballroom dancing, have inspired popular TV shows such as "Dancing with the Stars," on which celebrities such as Kirstie Alley, Kyle Massey and Kelly Osbourne have trimmed down over the show's 12 seasons. Before enrolling in a class, talk to the instructor about any concerns (such as you're new to dance, or new to exercise) or health issues you may have. And if you're shy? There's nothing stopping you from dancing around your own home -- just be sure to warm up, cool down and get your heart pumping. Keep it up and you'll be on "So You Think You Can Dance" in no time at all.
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