Dance your way to fitness

Top five ways to dance yourself fit

If you really want to get in shape, get your dancin’ shoes on. It certainly hasn’t done Madonna, Britney or Kylie any harm on the fit body front – and according to a recent survey by Nike, more than 333,000 girls and women have been inspired by famous stars moves (think Madonna in 'Confessions on a Dance Floor') and film franchises like 'Step Up' or 'High School Musical'  to make dance their preferred fitness activity.

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 and make new friends.

In the Nike survey, the most popular dance classes at gyms are street-inspired styles like hip-hop and urban dance. Nike has just launched its own dance-based Rock star Workout, devised by choreographer to the stars Jamie King, who has created routines for everyone from Gwen Stefani to Jennifer Lopez. The class is pre-choreographed (so you build on the routine from week to week) and a salsa version is set to follow. But if those rock and pop promo moves leave you cold (or, in my case, in a heap on the floor), then there are plenty of other styles to try out — each with their own unique benefits.

Street dancing

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 – think Janet Jackson), the acrobatic challenge of break dancing to the R’n’B bump and grind, a la Beyonce. You’ll need a great sense of rhythm, good coordination and plenty of attitude!

Belly dancing

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. You don’t need a gem-studded navel to give it a go and, as it’s low impact and gentle, it’s suitable for anyone to try.

Salsa dance

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 – but if all else fails, just enjoy the music!

Ballroom dancing

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! It’s also great for posture, flexibility and grace.

Ballet dancing

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.

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