Today’s trendiest fitness classes—from aerial exercise to Qoya, Graces Somotomorphic Technique to the many barre class variations—all rely partly on dance to work your body. Community gym stables like Zumba and more exotic classes, like pole dancing, share dance at their core. And dance has been a popular element of exercise since at least the 1970s, when women across the U.S. flocked to Jazzercise and its ilk. But what about traditional, bare-bones dance classes—are they really effective as exercise?
I’ve just signed up for tap and ballet-jazz fusion classes at the local YWCA, so my interest isn’t entirely hypothetical. Can plain tap or ballet classes, of the sort one takes at the Y, a community center, college or strip-mall studio , be a good workout? And of what sort?
Tap dance combines aerobic activity with mind/body coordination, says Cincinnati tap dancer/educator and licensed massage therapist Gloria Esenwein: “It provides students with a way to elevate metabolism, use their brain , improve balance, and is a terrific stress reliever. If you tend to be someone who is always ‘in your head,’ tap dancing is a perfect way to balance that tendency.
Some people underestimate the confidence-building and body transforming power of dance, says Chelsea Cruz, a personal trainer and former competitive dancer. The one comment I constantly hear after a dance class is I didnt even know I had muscles there! It was so fun, I didnt even know I was working out!
Cruz answered a few more questions for us about exercising via dance:
Can you get a good workout from taking traditional tap and ballet classes? Will you burn calories? Tone muscles?
Traditional dance classes like jazz, tap and ballet can and should be considered an excellent exercise or workout!
The type of workout category that each class falls into can really depend on the level of the class. For example: Beginning ballet, jazz and tap would be great classes for novice dancers to gain better balance, core strength, flexibility and improved posture, similar to a yoga class. Intermediate ballet and jazz would work the body in a similar fashion but with more intensity—core muscles would be utilized more during turns and traveling combinations, while leg strength would be dramatically increased with leaps, jumps and kicks. Advanced dance classes would improve balance, core strength, flexibility, and leg strength as well, however, the intensity of advanced classes adds the element of faster combinations and choreography which significantly improves the functionality of the cardiovascular system. No matter what level or style of dance, students taking classes use muscles in a way that their body is not accustomed to, which can build strength and coordination.
Not only are dance classes a full body workout that strengthen and tone muscles, but they also burn a ton of calories! On average, a 150 pound woman could easily burn between 300-600 calories during a 1 hour dance class depending on the style, level and intensity.
What do you believe are the biggest health benefits of taking dance classes?
The biggest benefits of taking dance classes is increased strength, flexibility and cardiovascular endurance, all of which prevent disease and injury.
Of the nontraditional, dance/fusion fitness classes , which do you recommend?
Dance fusion classes are an amazing way to mix traditional dance classes with the added benefit of a group aerobics class. Zumba and Boogie Boxing are my two favorite dance fusion classes. Zumba is great for burning fat and building core strength to fast paced latin beats. Boogie Boxing is an intense fusion of dance and kickboxing. This class torches calories while building strong legs, toned arms and abs to die for!