Dance Off the Weight

Dancing doesn’t feel like exercise, it just feels fun. The fitness benefits are a welcome bonus.
Published October 20, 2019

Sure, you can get a great workout doing yoga or spinning. But sometimes you need a change of pace from your go-to fitness classes. From ballet to belly dancing, tap to tango, there’s a dance class out there to fit any personality — and any fitness level. The best part is? It’s fun!

The benefits of dance reach way beyond cardio health. “On top of burning calories, dancing is also an emotional experience,” says Elizabeth Larkam, dance medicine expert for the American Council on Exercise. “Because it takes place in the context of music, assuming you enjoy the rhythm and the melody, it can actually lift your mood.”

Dancing also works another muscle: your brain. “Learning combinations encourages excellent neuro-plasticity, which keeps the brain young,” Larkam says. “When you move your body side to side, forward and backward, you’re challenging your spatial intelligence.”

Find the type of dance that’s right for you

  • If you’re patient and enjoy precision and detail, Ballet is right for you. “You can’t be in a rush to get it right,” Larkham says.
  • For those who like to go dancing with the girls (and enjoy an emphasis on cardio), hit the dance floor with a Zumba class.
  • For those that like theatricality, self-expression and may be a bit of a closet exhibitionist, Pole Dancing will let your inner flame hit the stage.
  • If you’re a more collaborative person or just enjoy working out with the hubby, try Ballroom or Swing.
  • If math was your best subject in school and you enjoy complex patterns and sequences, try Tap.
  • Want to express your inner sensual goddess? Belly Dancing could be right up your alley.
  • If you’re a romantic and have a flair for the dramatic, try a Tango class.

Dance fever
Got dance class anxiety? Here are six ways to stomp it out.

  1. Establish a rapport with the teacher. Don’t be shy. Introduce yourself before class and explain what would help you feel more comfortable, Larkam suggests. “Everyone has a different style of learning. When you trust your teacher, you’ll feel more comfortable asking questions and accepting corrections — which will help you learn faster.”
  2. Loosen up. Practice dancing in front of a mirror at home first.
  3. Wear what you want. Unless there’s a specified uniform, wearing your favourite flattering workout gear is the way to go. The more comfortable you are, the more relaxed you’ll be.
  4. Choose a class with music you love. “If you’re listening to music that moves you, you’re already going to be less nervous,” Larkam says.
  5. Pick a type of dance you love to watch. “When you take a class that looks fun to you, you will better emulate the steps and learn more,” Larkam says. “Someone might say, ‘you should really take jazz because you’ll strengthen your core.’ But if you think that jazz moves look like they hurt, that’s not the type of dance for you.”
  6. Mix it up. Don’t get distressed if you felt uncomfortable in one type of class. Sample various dance styles until you find one that moves you.