Dancing may be a fun and sociable way of developing your muscular strength, bone structure and mental wellbeing. Here are some top tips on choosing the style of dance that is perfect for improving your own health and fitness.
Dancing is a broad activity that covers many styles and disciplines. Before you pick which one to train in, it’s vital that you honestly assess your body’s capabilities. You may have a burning desire to try the funky and explosive moves of salsa or Capoerira but if you don't exercise regularly, a more sedate form of dancing could offer a better introduction. Different dances require a huge variety of fitness levels and physical demands, so consider your body’s current condition before jumping (or rather, jiving) in at the deep-end.
If you last enjoyed dancing while wearing a white suit and a gold medallion and strutted your stuff at a thing called a discotheque, it’s probably best that you think carefully before launching into an intensive dancing style. Many forms of dance are open to all ages, with ballroom dancing and Irish dancing popular across a range of social groups. However, if you’re thinking of taking up flamenco, break dancing or belly dancing, it’s best to consult a qualified instructor who understands the potential restrictions of age. Age doesn’t have to be too big a factor in choosing which dance to pursue; it’s just important that you know the limits of your body to stay safe.
While the condition of your body may be a guiding factor in your choice of dance exercise, your personal preferences will also play a big part in what style of dance you enjoy. It’s probably best not to try pole dancing just yet if you’re the shy and retiring type, whilst an Israeli folk dance may not be such a bright idea if you traditionally prefer winding your car window down and blasting out some drum ‘n’ bass classics. Consider your personality and music tastes, before choosing a style of dance.
People get involved in dance exercise for a number of different reasons, whether it be to burn calories, make new friends or ease their mental stresses. Either way, by correctly assessing your dancing goals, and realising what you want to get out of your dancing exercise, you’ll soon find out which style is right for your personal needs.
Getting advice by chatting to friends or family who have already fallen for dance exercise will offer some useful guidance as to what style you should start out in. This will allow you to learn from any mistakes that they might have made and benefit from their tips and advice.
Popular styles of dance
There’s no doubting the pay-offs of dancing yourself fit – it burns calories (up to 600 per hour for the pros), tones and strengthens the whole body, increases flexibility and improves skills such as coordination and rhythm. But perhaps the most important factor of all is that it’s fun and engaging. There’s no glancing at the clock to see how long you’ve got left, or daydreaming about what you are going to have for dinner – you have to stay focused and ‘in the present’ in order to keep up with the moves.
This also makes dance a great stress reliever, as you are forced to put aside your day-to-day worries and frustrations to concentrate on the class. And depending on the type of dance you choose, it can be an ideal opportunity to meet people.
There are many different styles of dancing for you to choose from. Here is a round-up of some of the most popular styles.
Street dance incorporates a number of styles – most of which you can see in action by plonking yourself down in front of MTV for half an hour. From popping (fluid, languid, effortless looking moves) to locking (an American form of street dance that includes very precise, almost jerky moves), the acrobatic challenge of break dancing to the R’n’B bump and grind. You’ll need a great sense of rhythm and good coordination.
A traditional form of dance from the Middle East, belly dancing is very sensual and feminine. It’s also fantastic for the abdominal and back muscles – helping to improve posture, ease period pain and back ache and strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. Belly dancing is low impact, gentle and suitable for anyone to try.
Salsa means ‘sauce’ and it certainly can be a saucy way to work up a sweat and meet members of the opposite sex — in its original form, salsa is a courtship dance. It’s also highly energetic, with fluid, circular patterns of movement and lots of hip swaying and spinning around. The movements require a strong ‘core’ and will soon tone the abdominals, glutes, thighs, lower back and calves. You’ll need good coordination and a good sense of rhythm for salsa.
Enjoying a resurgence of popularity, ballroom dancing is an umbrella for all kinds of dances, from the drama of the tango to the grace of the waltz. And make no mistake; mastering the fancy footwork of these dances will get you seriously fit. One study found that at competition level, heart rate and breathing rate of professional dancers was equal to that of cyclists, swimmers and 800 metre runners. Ballroom dancing is also great for posture, flexibility and grace.
Your days of dreaming of being a ballerina may be over, but that doesn’t mean you can’t reap the benefits of a ballet-inspired workout. Benefits like strong, streamlined muscles, amazing suppleness and flexibility, improved posture and fluid, graceful movement. Classes such as Ballet Fusion and New York City Ballet Workout bridge the gap between fitness class and pure ballet.
Yes, it’s true – fitness can be fun, so what are you waiting for? Get your dancin’ shoes on and join a class.