Get into a groove while working out

Dancing as a workoutThis year’s Winter Olympics were full of memorable athletes, like Mexican skier Hubertus von Hohenlohe and his one-of-a-kind uniform, bobsledder Johnny Quinn’s difficulty with doors and, of course, the dancing luger Kate Hansen. Before careening down an icy tunnel at speeds pushing 90 mph, cameras chronicled Hansen’s unique warm-up routine, which shunned traditional calisthenics in favor of dancing to the tunes of Beyoncé.

While Hansen’s one-of-a-kind routine captured the attention of viewers, it also brought up an interesting question: How effective is dancing as a workout?

For starters, adding a few spins and sashays to your day can give your fitness levels a big boost. According to some estimates, an hour-long dance routine can burn between 250 and 400 calories, comparable to an hour of speed walking. Dancing can also help improve balance and work muscles that your typical exercise routine might miss, like your hamstrings and glutes.

But dancing is not a just physical exercise. Several studies have examined the mind-boosting effects of practicing dances like the fox trot and waltz, which include elaborate movements and steps. One study from The New England Journal of Medicine showed that such dances can help your mind focus, improve coordination and decrease risk for conditions like dementia.

If you’re looking for ways to make dancing a focal point of your workout, there’s no shortage of fitness classes like Zumba, cardio salsa and hip hop/dance fusion that combine unique dance movements with more intense, physical activity (find them at these gyms in Michigan).

Whether or not dancing is a match for you, we can all stand to take a page out of Hansen’s book: Do what makes you happy. Any type of physical activity is beneficial, and mixing in a fun exercise like dancing, biking or swimming is a good way to keep things fresh and active.


Photo credit: Edson Hong

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