Beyond the Treadmill: Making Fitness Fun with Dance Classes
by Carol Page
One of the most important factors in maintaining an active, healthy lifestyle is to find a form of exercise that you really enjoy. You might be able to push yourself through an activity that you find boring or even unpleasant for a little while, but in the long run you’ll be much more likely to meet your fitness goals if you find something that you actually look forward to doing! At the same time, having some variety in your workout is important. First of all, it keeps you interested and secondly, if you follow the same routine week after week your body will adapt and stop burning calories and building muscles at the same rate, bringing your progress to a standstill. One excellent solution is taking a dance class! Dance is not only a lot of fun, but it brings variety to your routine and offers a great workout. Here are some forms of dance and the benefits they offer:
1) Hula: Here’s one you might not have considered before. I recently started taking hula classes and I love it! Hula, the traditional dance form of Hawaii, is great for coordination. You tell stories your hands and arms while doing a variety of foot and hip movements.
2) Ballet: This is a great workout. Taking class regularly improves flexibility, strength, coordination and endurance. If you’re adult non-professional, don’t worry, you won’t need pointe shoes! Classes start with a warm up at the barre and build sequentially.
3) Salsa: Take class with a friend or go on your own. In beginner classes you don’t usually need a partner – the focus is on learning the basic steps. The time goes by fast and it is more of a work out than you might expect.
Remember, it’s okay to be a beginner! Whatever your age and experience level, don’t be too intimidated to try something new. Many community centers, such as the YMCA, offer beginner-level dance classes. The instructor will break down the steps for you, and everyone else in the class will be a beginner just like you! See what’s available in your area and give it a try. Just be sure to tell your instructor before class if you have any injuries, and ask your physician if it’s okay to participate in that particular form of dance. If you don’t have a center near you, there are even classes that you can stream online or practice from a DVD in the privacy of your home.
Be patient with yourself – dance is a skill just like playing the guitar or learning a new language-give it time, don’t be afraid to make mistakes, and enjoy yourself.
Carol Page, PT, DPT, CHT is a physical therapist with the Rehabilitation Department at Hospital for Special Surgery. Carol was a professional modern dancer and continues to be an avid dancer.