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Cardio Striptease: Take It Off

Strip aerobics classes offer fun and fitness while you shed pounds
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WebMD Weight Loss Clinic-Feature

How many workout classes specify, 'Bring six-inch heels?' Cardio striptease, sometimes called strip aerobics, does -- at least in some of its forms.

Offered at the Crunch Fitness chain of health clubs and by some private teachers, this new (and yet so old) form of movement is for women looking to lose inhibitions along with excess weight.

One of its proponents is actress, producer, and mother of two Sheila Kelley, author of a book called The S-Factor: Strip Workouts for Every Woman. Kelley, who says she despises working out, found out what a workout stripping could be while playing a stripper in the independent film Dancing at the Blue Iguana.

"This film took four months to shoot, and within a month and a half, my upper body had become incredibly strong and my abs were incredibly tight. I couldn't believe it." Her son was 4, and the pregnancy weight had finally melted off.

Then Kelley had a daughter and found herself once again with extra poundage. So she put a stripping pole in her husband's office and started doing a lot of movements with it, combining Pilates and yoga with the stripping moves. "This became my workout," she says.

During one of those sessions, she writes in her book, "I began moving and in that instant, something switched on in me. I was moving without a moment's forethought or self-consciousness. My body became like a river of sinew and muscle and raw energy. I allowed the music to curve and shape me with its wave."

Kelley says teaching her program was the furthest thing from her mind. Her friends became interested, though, when they saw how fast she bounced back from her pregnancy. "I started teaching four women, then their friends got into it," she recalls.

When all her students had become strangers, she started charging, and says she has now gotten more than 700 women runway-ready. "It took off like wildfire," she says. Kelley has since appeared on both The Oprah Winfrey Show and The View, and she even cajoled Barbara Walters into entwining herself on the pole.

Each session at Kelley's studio in Los Angeles is about two hours long. "You do sweat," she says. "I am not a physiologist, but your heart rate does go up. I teach people a whole routine and we practice it. This is a sensual, athletic endeavor."

Is she serious about those six-inch heels? "I do it barefoot," she says, "but encourage people to wear whatever makes them feel sexy. Some wear Doc Martens. You are discovering an erotic creature when you do this."

If they wish, participants may also bring a G-string, stripping shorts, a pushup bra, or short T-shirt to wear as a dress. For the record, some of her students do take it off (to G-string level), but others choose not to.

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