7 dance styles to boost your fitness

There's a myth going around that you need to join the gym to get fit. Don't pay any attention; there are loads of other ways to get fit and active that don't involve a gruelling session on the treadmill. Research shows that if you enjoy exercising, you're more likely to stick to it – so pick an activity that feels more like fun than hard work! Keeping your workout routine varied; the gym one day, Pilates the next and then a dance class, can really help you to stay motivated. Plus it ensure you're getting a full body workout.

Dancing can be a great way to stay active and it's suitable for all ages. From flamenco and zumba to ballet and tap, dance classes aren't just for kids. So dust off your ballet shoes, wiggle into that belly-dancing top and grab your partner for the Charlston; we've got 7 dance styles to boost your fitness!

#1. Ballet

Gone are the days when ballet was all about little girls with perfect buns, performing plies. Yes, of course it's still about that, to some extent, but in recent years ballet has become the new cool. Fusion classes where fitness meets ballet, such as barre classes, have become all the rage. As anyone who has ever attended a ballet class knows, dancers use muscles you didn't even know you had, and it's not unusual to be sore for several days after a class.

If you live in London, Frame in Shoreditch offer Ballet Barre classes which aim to improve your strength, flexibility and balance using ballet skills and strength building exercises. You'll work on your core muscles, achieving a long, lean and toned body – ok, maybe not after just one class. Other dance schools offer more traditional ballet classes for adults and children, which can be a great way to learn the basics before trying a fitness-based class.

Ballet can improve your posture, help you stretch those muscles, and tone your legs, thighs and bum. We can't promise you'll land the starring role in Swan Lake – to be a professional ballet dancer takes incredible discipline and commitment – but we can promise you'll boost your fitness, flexibility and mood with regular classes. It's best to attend a class rather than trying this at home, as all those jumps and spins can be hard on your muscles; it's easy to pick up bad habits.

#2. Swing dance

Swing dance is a craze sweeping the nation. We touched on it briefly in our article about alternatives to the gym. It's the workout-that-doesn't-feel-like-a-workout, so if you're a self-confessed couch potato or new to fitness, this is a great place to start. Swing dance classes are a great chance to be social too – you'll meet new people and no partners are required, so you can attend alone or with friends. Swing Patrol in London run regular classes from £8 a session, or save money with a membership card. You'll learn the Charleston, the Lindy Hop – you might even have time for some blues dancing. An hour-long session can be intensive, burning up to 300 calories, but you'll be having such fun you won't even realise.

The best part about swing dancing? No specialist clothing, shoes or equipment needed. Wear something you feel comfortable and can move in and flat shoes. It can be addictive once you get started, and there are loads of meet-up groups plus competitions across the country if you start to take it seriously. This is one style of dancing we're a little bit in love with!

#3. Belly dancing

Banish those images of middle-aged women in belly tops. Belly dancing is fun, flirtatious and for all ages, and you can wear what you like! Belly dancing provides you with the perfect ab workout, toning and sculpting almost every single muscle in your core. It's a great way to target your deep transverse abdominals and get a toned stomach for bikini season.

There's an aerobic element to most belly dancing classes too, which releases endorphins, boosting your mood and making you feel good. Did you know belly dancing can also help to ease chronic back and shoulder pain as well as arthritis? The movements are relatively gentle, so it's ideal for older people and pregnant women.

Head for the Fleur Estelle School in London, the biggest belly dancing school in the capital, and sign up for a course or enjoy drop-in classes with no commitment needed.

#4. Zumba

Zumba has taken off in recent years, hailed as 'the most awesome workout ever.” It's as much about dance as it is about fitness; low-intensity moves are combined with high-intensity exercises and Latin rhythms. It can boost your energy, improve balance and flexibility, help you lose weight and condition your muscles.

Zumba is a Latin-inspired craze and includes elements from salsa, mambo, merengue, flamenco and more, making it a great choice for anyone considering moving on to a Latin dance class. You can wear whatever you like to classes; we recommend shorts or leggings, a t-shirt and dance fitness shoes, as you'll be doing plenty of twisting and turning.

Book classes with Zumba Fitness London online on a drop-in basis, no commitment required, or sign up for a block of classes to save money.

#5. Tap dancing

Fancy yourself as the next Fred Astaire or Ginger Rogers? Even if you've never tried tap dancing – or perhaps you have memories of it from childhood – it's a great way to get fit. You'll find traditional tap dance classes as well as dancing combined with fitness, so it's up to you which you'd prefer.

All that's needed for most tap dance classes are some shoes – you can wear what you like and most people opt for leggings or shorts and a t-shirt or vest. Tap is a very sociable, fun form of dance and the key element is balance. You'll improve your posture as you need to use your deep postural muscles around your core to keep your bodyweight over your feet. It can help to develop a flatter stomach as well as strengthening your lower back.

Moves such as 'shuffling', moving back and forth with the ball of your foot and 'pick-ups', jumping and landing on your opposite foot, provide a gentle aerobic workout that burns around 250 calories after an hour-long session. Your bum and arms will get a workout too!

Try Pineapple Dance Studios in London for tap and other dance classes. You can try rhythm tap or jazz tap classes, with prices starting at £7 for beginners sessions.

#6. Street dance/hip hop

Also known as commercial dance, street dance is popular amongst younger adults but anyone of any age can give it a go. If tap or ballet isn't for you and you prefer a more choreographed, funky dance style, try street dance.

Street dance and hip hop encourages interaction amongst dancers and with the audience, making it an incredibly social form of dance. As the name suggests, it evolved on the streets; in night clubs, school yards and other places. It's the type of dancing you'll see in music videos, and it can be a challenge to learn.

Street dance includes breakdance, hip hop, new style, electro dance, house dance and popping and locking – classes held at Pineapple Studios cover ragga dancehall, street jazz, breakdance and more, so it's up to you which style you want to master. All that's needed is a (vague) sense of rhythm and fun; you're sure to get into it once you start. Don't forget to pack a post-workout snack after all that work!

#7. Salsa dancing

Salsa originated in Yuma, taking influences from Latin America. It's sexy, sensual and fun, and it's a great way to socialise, as class numbers are usually quite large. In London and other cities, classes are often held alongside salsa events and club nights.

The Salsateca Dance School near Waterloo station in London hosts both weekend workshops and regular classes, with teachers from around the globe. Classes start from £8 for one or £12 for two sessions and are suitable for all levels of experience.

You'll learn the basic foot patterns and steps, turns, change of positions and more elaborate foot work and spins as you become more advanced. Salsa is great for all ages and you'll find you're burning up to 600 calories an hour, depending how intense your session is! Salsa also helps to strengthen your muscles and bones, preventing arthritis. It can improve flexibility and co-ordination, and because you're dancing in a group setting, it's ideal if you're a little shy, as it will really help to boost your self-esteem and confidence.

READ THIS NEXT: Wake up your workout: 5 alternatives to the gym



Author By Paula Beaton
Date On 2nd Oct 2014 at 10:56

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