Your Health

Debunking the myths about dance workouts

Passion Fit
Alex Johnson / Special to the Town Crier
Columnist Reena Vokoun, above center in orange, teaches a dance class at Passion Fit’s launch event at Athleta in Palo Alto. According to Vokoun, dance not only works the cardiovascular system, but also engages the core, which helps tone and sculpt the body.

Many people are under the misconception that dancing isn’t a very effective workout.

While there may be variances by individual, according to research conducted by the American Council on Exercise, dance classes like Zumba can burn on average between 300 and 400 calories per hour and are considered effective, full-body regimens.

Based on this information, following are four myths about dance workouts that can be busted.

• Myth No. 1: Dancing doesn’t get your heart rate up like a high-intensity interval training workout does. Believe it or not, dancing is actually a lot like an interval training workout because doing dances to different songs with different beats per minute allows your heart rate to go up and down. You have the opportunity to really increase your intensity with faster dances and recover with slower ones. Many dance classes are choreographed this way by design.

• Myth No. 2: You must have prior dance experience to really reap the benefits of a dance workout. You really don’t need experience. If you read dance class descriptions, many will tell you if the course is beginner, intermediate or advanced level, and if prior experience is required. If you’re taking classes at a local gym or studio, the dance classes offered in those settings are geared toward the mainstream gym-goer, focus on the fitness aspect of dancing and usually welcome all levels. According to CNN Health, the benefits of dancing are universal at any age and level, as they engage the mind and body, improve memory and cognitive functioning, and teach balance and coordination.

• Myth No. 3: Dance classes may provide some cardio, but they don’t necessarily offer a good core or strength workout. Dance workouts provide a great deal of cardiovascular activity and also engage the core the entire time, enabling you to tone and sculpt your entire body as you move from one pose or combination of steps to another. As noted on the health website WebMD, dancing uses your own body weight for strength training, so you can engage your upper body, lower body and core. You move your hips frequently as well. Dance workouts also help increase flexibility and posture, because many movements require you to elongate your muscles while maintaining a neutral spine and an engaged core. Therefore, dance workouts provide cardio, strength and flexibility training all in one workout.

• Myth No. 4: Dance workouts are designed primarily for women. Men can absolutely participate in dance workouts, and many already do. The founder of Zumba, Beto Perez, is a man, as is the creator of the CIZE Beachbody dance workout, Shaun T. Increasing numbers of men are interested in mixing up their workouts and trying different types of classes at the gym. Many men also like to take classes with their wives or significant others, which can include dance workout classes.

I hope these myth busters give you a different perspective on dance workouts and encourage you to try one if you haven’t already. If you’re looking for new dance classes to try, check out my Passion Fit classes, scheduled 9 a.m. Sundays and Thursdays at Areté Dance Center, 979 Fremont Ave., Los Altos.

Reena Vokoun is owner of the Los Altos-based Passion Fit. For more information, visit passionfit.com.

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