Health/Fitness » Fitness

The Best Dance Workouts

by Kent McGroarty
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Thursday Mar 22, 2012

In addition to being one of the most fun forms of exercise out there, dance workouts offer a plethora of health benefits, including joint flexibility, increased rhythm and coordination, toned muscles, calories burned, increased stamina, improved circulation, stress management, and possible improved self-confidence and mental health. Though any form of dance provides good exercise, some types of dance offer a more comprehensive workout than others. Some of the best dance "workouts" include belly dancing, hip-hop, ballroom, and the dance/fitness explosion known as Zumba.

Hip-hop dance provides a high-energy workout based around the latest moves featured in hip-hop videos or hip-hop clubs. Isolated body movements are combined with fast, fluid movements that "require quick work and coordination of the muscles and extremities. "A good cardio workout in that it gets the breath and heart rate up, hip hop dance focuses on abdominal movement and frequently mimics the expansion and contraction of crunches and sit ups. This dance form also strengthens the muscles, as every completed step means the body is working aerobically. If you push yourself during a hip hop routine or workout by learning more complex steps, you will also be getting an anaerobic workout. This means you will tone the muscles, build muscle strength, and make the joints more flexible and elastic.

Remember to push yourself during a hip-hop class to get those anaerobic benefits. Use hip-hop dance to help you lose weight, reduce stress and chronic fatigue, boost energy, and increase self-esteem. Try "Quickfix: Cardio Hip Hop Workout" with Julianne Arney or "Dance Off the Inches: Hip Hop Party" with Jennifer Galardi if you cannot find a hip-hop class near you.

Regular belly dancing helps improve the posture and can relieve lower back problems in addition to many other health benefits. Belly dancing is comprised of movements such as hip drops, circles, pivots, figure 8s, shimmies, and rolls that "work with the body instead of against it" and utilize the muscle groups in the abdomen, pelvis, trunk, spine, and neck. Movements are natural to the body, unlike ballet, which can possibly deform the skeleton.

Muscle groups attached to vertebrae and ligaments in the trunk and pelvis area, which create movement, are used in a safe and effective manner to maintain and increase flexibility. The joints and ligaments in the lower back and hips receive a full range of gentle, repetitive motion thanks to the aforementioned movements. The pelvis is either tipped forward or somewhat "tucked" when movements are done correctly, both of which are neutral positions that can prevent problems in the lower back. These positions can also alleviate lower back stress, which can occur from prolonged sitting or an otherwise sedentary lifestyle. Neutral belly dancing positions are counteractive to disc compression.

Because the spine can curve forward due to weak muscle groups, toning the muscles in the back and hips improves posture and prevents the back pain associated with this unnatural curving. The hips become more supple and flexible due to the frequent use of the hips during belly dance workouts. Sense of balance also improves.

The arms and shoulders get a great workout thanks to "snake arms" and other movements, as the arms are held up during much of belly dancing. The abs receive a great workout as well due to belly rolls and torso "sways." Swaying the torso also contributes towards a healthy digestive system. Many find the traditional movements and subtle rhythms that make up belly dancing calming. While relaxation is a key aspect of belly dancing, the workout can still burn as much as 300 calories per hour. Belly dancing is a low-impact workout ideal for those with knee and ankle issues. Try "The Goddess Workout" DVD to shimmy your way to a better body.

The many turns, steps, and maneuvers that make up ballroom dancing equal tons of calories burned. Increased flexibility and strength buildup also occur from regular ballroom dancing-just think of the dramatic weight loss of Kirstie Alley and Ricki Lake during their "Dancing with the Stars" stints! Increased flexibility occurs due to pre-dance stretching as well as performing ballroom dance steps, both of which involve a lot of stretching and bending. Dancers find themselves getting stronger from forcing their muscles to resist their own body weight. Male ballroom dancers especially get to build their leg muscles as they often have to lift their female partners above their heads, though the force-intensive moves of such dancing builds up the leg muscles of any ballroom dancer.

Ballroom dancing is also a communal activity that builds self-confidence as well as endurance. Dancing with a partner or being around others in a dance class is a great way to socialize, which usually results in a more positive outlook and boost in self-confidence. The intensity necessary for ballroom dancing helps build endurance, as each time you work on a lift, turn, twist, or other step with a partner, you get stronger and are able to dance for longer. Try the "Dance with Julianne: Cardio Ballroom with Dancing with the Stars' Julianne Hough" to burn calories the ballroom way.

One of the most popular dance fitness workouts available today is Zumba, an upbeat workout based around salsa and other moves from the Latin dance world. Celebrated by many for changing the body "better than body sculpting," Zumba burns calories, increases bone density and endurance, tones the muscles, and lowers blood pressure. A Zumba workout can burn between 400 and 600 calories, and classes are designed to provide "intervals of intensity" based on the pace of the music. For example, a class may switch from the fast beats of the meringue to slower movements, such as push-ups against a wall or sets of squats.

Though some forms of dance focus on more on the legs or the abs, Zumba is a comprehensive workout for the entire body. Nearly every body part gets a workout during Zumba, from head and shoulder rolls to loosen the neck to footwork that stretches and tones the calves. The Latin dance moves in Zumba also give the hips and abs an intensive workout. Zumba fans also credit the workout for contributing towards sharpening their minds and freeing their inhibitions. Browse the Zumba website to find a class near you, or pick up one of their workout DVDs to exercise at home.

Nearly every kind of dancing is a great cardiovascular workout that exercises the body as well as the mind. Whatever dancing form appeals to you most, use it to dramatically change the body, improve your circulation, endurance, stamina, and overall well-being.

Kent McGroarty is a freelance writer. She is a frequent contributor to EDGE’S Style, Travel, Health, and Fitness channels. Contact her at


  • , 2012-03-22 01:11:07

    I used to think that buying bigger was better, Meal planning is key, so look for the items you’d need to create healthy meals, Plan your meals based on what’s on sale and see if you can find samples from "Get Official Samples" that is even better

  • , 2012-03-22 03:45:17

    How about acrobatic dance. Now That, is a workout.

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