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Fitness Basics: Dance Your Way to Fitness

Whether it's techno, salsa, ballroom, or Jazzercise, dance is great exercise for everyone

Every(wo)man's Fitness Program

"Dancing is moving ... anybody can dance," says Josie Gardner, a former ballet dancer who's now an exercise physiologist and spokeswoman for the American Council on Exercise. "You can dance sitting in chair, dance with your friends. It doesn't matter whether you do five or 10 minutes at a time or more. Dancing makes people feel good, and it's fun."

Gardner lives in Massachusetts, where dance clubs are tradition.

"You can find 500 couples in there ballroom dancing. You can work up a good sweat if you're doing it all night," she says.

What kid doesn't like to dance? Step into any arcade: Kids are all over the "reactive dance pads" -- soft floor pads that look something like the old Twister game.

You can buy them for home use, too. Plug the pad into your computer and it lights up, guiding where your feet should go.

"Dance pads are a great workout," Gardner says. "Kids kind of dominate them now, but anyone can do it."

Not Many Fat Dancers

If you dance 60 minutes a day, you could be 10-12 pounds lighter in a year, Gardner tells WebMD.

"So many people are dissuaded from workout programs. But they can dance -- even at home. Get up during a commercial and dance around. Do 10 minutes of dancing every morning and evening."

"You don't see too many overweight square dancers or ballroom dancers," Endress tells WebMD. "You work up a sweat! I took it in college, so I can vouch for that. Swing dancing and jitterbug -- those are fun dances, a good workout, and most people learn them quickly."

Dancing is considered a moderate-intensity exercise, he says.

"You're moving your body up to an hour at a time. Anyone doing that will burn 200, 300 calories. It's endurance that's doing the calorie burn."

Swing dancing "will get your heart rate up pretty high," Endress adds. "Rock and techno dancing are low-impact aerobics. But the intensity depends on how vigorous you want to be."

If your club dancing is intense -- say, with foot-stomping plus crazy-fast arms -- you could really get a good workout.

"The goal is to exercise so that you increase your heart rate over 30 minutes to where you can just barely talk comfortably," says Sperling.

One word of advice: even if you love dancing, it's best to mix things up a bit, Sperling adds. "Combine a bunch of [activities] like dancing, walking, jogging, swimming, playing tennis," he says. "They're all very beneficial."

Originally published Mar. 06, 2005.
Medically updated Feb. 16, 2006.

Reviewed on February 24, 2006

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