Dance your way to a better body
The last 10 years has seen an explosion of dance shows and competitions on television. Series like “So You Think You Can Dance” have demonstrated to the general public how athletic dancers are, and people have watched celebrities drop inches on “Dancing With the Stars” as they train and learn a variety of dance styles. Dance is no longer just for girls who want to have fun. But where does an adult turn to use dance for fitness?
Beware the quick fix offered by dance DVDs, even those offered by celebrities on dance shows. The technique required to dance properly is better learned from a professional who can correct your form in person. Even if you start at home and try to move into a studio, you may have practiced incorrect form that you will have to unlearn later.
To find a local teacher, start by doing a general online search for dance studios. Take a look at the programs they list online and see if any classes sound like fun. Many studios now offer programs exclusively for adults, allowing older dancers to learn new steps at their own pace. If your daughter or son takes dance lessons, inquire about “mommy and me” classes that will allow you to spend time with your child while learning together.
If you like a studio’s roster of classes, Ann Cowlin, the creator of Dancing thru Pregnancy (a Physiquality partner), advises looking up the teacher’s credentials. What type of training has she had? Did he take any courses in anatomy or physiology that would help him understand proper alignment? If she offers dance fitness classes, has she been certified by an organization like the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) or the American Council on Exercise (ACE)? You want to take a class from someone who is experienced and qualified to teach a range of students.
Ann also advises making sure to take a class that’s appropriate for your level and fitness requirements. If you’re new to dance, take a beginner or “discover” class that will allow you to learn the basics and master technique. And try a variety of styles — each style will have a variety of benefits and a different tone. Classical ballet builds strength and discipline, while modern/contemporary classes will allow you to express yourself. Hip hop classes are great for cardio, while Broadway classes are a great escape after a long day of work. And ballroom teaches you to work with a partner, and, in the woman’s case, to follow the man’s lead (which is more difficult than you might think).
Many dance fitness programs incorporate Latin rhythms and dance moves while working your entire body. Joy Winchester, who teaches a variety of dance fitness classes at the Take Charge Fitness Program, a wellness facility run by Clinton Physical Therapy Center (a Physiquality network member), says her dance fitness classes “combine cardiovascular exercise with muscle toning in such a way that you do not even realize that you’re working out at all!”
Ann notes that, “Most types of dance will provide a pleasant integration of exercise components, including mind/body skills, strength, range of motion, balance, coordination and cardiovascular fitness.” If you haven’t worked out in a while, check with your doctor to make sure you don’t have any limitations before you take your first class. And if you have any injuries, tell your teacher before class begins. This will allow them to adapt any moves that aren’t appropriate for your body.
Like any exercise class, Joy reminds dancers to stay properly hydrated and wear clothing that ventilates well. Dance classes WILL make you sweat! And be sure to wear the proper shoes for your type of class. If you’re not sure what you should be wearing, check with your instructor.
Most of all, have fun! The biggest reason dance has become so popular as a fitness option is because it is so enjoyable. Relax, learn some choreography, and shake a tailfeather!
Ann Cowlin, MA, CSM, CCE, is the creator of Dancing thru Pregnancy, one of Physiquality’s partner programs. Ann is the author of Women’s Fitness Program Development, a guide to creating girls’ and women’s health and fitness programming, and is the expert consultant for the U.S. Army’s Pregnancy and Postpartum Train the Trainer Program.
Joy Winchester, HFS, teaches a variety of dance fitness classes at the Take Charge Fitness Program, a wellness facility run by Clinton Physical Therapy Center, a Physiquality network member in Clinton, Tennessee. She holds fitness certifications from ACSM, Silver Sneakers and ZUMBA and earned a degree in Exercise Science from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.
For further reading, look through our selection of articles on dance, in addition to the below links:
Warren, Ellen. Dance the workout away. Chicago Tribune, October 5, 2011.
Stein, Jeannine. Dance works arms, legs, heart: Salsa and cha-cha build endurance, and the tango improves muscle control and posture. Chicago Tribune, January 3, 2011.
Murphy, Jen. Fitness in rhythm and movement. Wall Street Journal, February 16, 2010.