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Everybody Dance Now!

Tips on dancing for fun and fitness

It feels like dance is everywhere these days – on top-rated television shows, in fitness centers with classes like Zumba® and cardio hip-hop, and even on the streets with impromptu flash mob gatherings. Why the surge in popularity? Dance enthusiasts say this artistic exercise is back in style simply because it’s fun.

“One of the best things about dance is that there are no rules,” says Jennifer Galardi, choreographer of the fitness DVD 10 Minute Solution: Cardio Hip Hop and a dance teacher at studios around the country. “You can move any which way you want – just let the music inspire you. That’s dance.”

Bopping around to music or a DVD in your living room is an easy way to start, but if you’re looking for some structure, consider joining a dance class or club. You’ll learn steps and have the built-in benefit of socializing. “People have told me that they look forward to taking Zumba after a rough day at work,” says Fen Tung, an Aerobics and Fitness Association of America-certified group exercise instructor in Cambridge, MA. “They already associate dance with fun – at a night club or a wedding reception. Because people can make friends in class, the hour often feels more like a party.”

Of course, even tapping your toes to a beat or swaying in time with a song burns a few calories, and a rhythm-fueled fun break like a Zumba class may burn even more. “Dance is in the cardio-aerobic category of exercise, which means that dancing may help you achieve weight loss goals while also helping to manage your blood sugar,” says Tung.

In my experience as an instructor, dance student, and lover of classes, finding the best method for you depends on your personality. Some classes and styles offer a lot of freedom, allowing you to move exactly the way you want. Others are more structured, teaching specific choreography. Music matters, too. If a certain style of music makes you want to move, seek out a dance form that pumps up the volume on that type of tune.

To get you started, here are some types of dance classes you may want to consider trying:

Nia: This gym-based class varies by instructor, but the format allows time for loose choreography as well as improvisation. The focus is often on how it feels as opposed to how the steps look. For instance, the class may be held in dim lighting, or you may face away from the mirror. Music varies from tribal rhythms to Top 40 tunes.

Cardio hip-hop: If you like dance tracks and welcome the challenge of learning a routine, give this fitness class a try. There is no one specific routine, but most classes start with a short warm-up and then move to stringing steps together, rehearsing the sequence as the dance grows. Attitude – expressed via hip shakes and hair flips – is a plus.

Zumba: With a soundtrack that features four distinct styles of Latin music – salsa, merengue, cumbia, and reggaeton – Zumba classes are structured to feel like a party. After the warm-up, simple, easy-to-pick-up choreography is taught. Classes are held in gyms and fitness centers.

Bollywood: Think cardio hip-hop set to Indian dance tracks. This studio- and gym-based class features gestures and movements inspired by the choreography in Indian films, from wrist rolls to hip shakes. A part of  Indian culture most seen at movies and at weddings, Bollywood dance has been adapted into a workout that moves from a warm-up to choreography.

Ballroom, salsa, and other partner dances: From the two-step to the Charleston to the tango, partner dancers are set to a variety of musical styles spanning a wide swath of countries and eras. Look for local dance clubs and classes. If country western dance is big in your community, give it a whirl. You can bring your own partner or find one on the dance floor.

Ballet, tap, and jazz: If you grew up taking classes at a dance studio – or always wish you had – search for adult ballet, tap, or jazz offerings. Each style starts with a warm-up, then moves to longer combinations. In ballet, you’ll perform short routines to classical music; in jazz you may bop to pop; and in tap you’ll make your own music … with your feet!

Read more about diabetes and dance.

For more articles to help reach your fitness goals in the new year, check out the Getting Started exercise series in The DX archive.

Jessica Cassity is a health reporter for SELF, Fitness, and Shape magazines, and the author of Better Each Day: 365 Expert Tips for a Healthier, Happier You. She is a Portland-based Pilates and yoga teacher and blogs at Cassity is a paid contributor for The DX. All opinions contained in this article reflect those of the contributor and interviewees, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies, or affiliates.

© 2014 The DX: The Diabetes Experience

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