When you think of working out, you probably think about running or weight lifting, right? If that stereotypical image of exercise makes you want to head for the hills, you’re not alone. Millions of people want to get in shape but dread the idea of a monotonous cardio workout and feel overwhelmed by the idea of coming up with an entire fitness routine on their own. Dance workout classes, whether taken in a gym, dance studio, or streamed in the comfort of your own living room from a service like Body FX, offer a heart-pumping, calorie-burning workout that’s not only effective, but also fun. The best part is that you don’t have to be a good dancer to get a great workout – in fact, you might get an even better workout if you’re new to dance fitness! If you’re considering adding dance fitness classes to your fitness routine, get a load of these five fun facts.
#1 Dance Workout Classes Are Good For Your Body and Your Brain
In addition to being a ton of fun, dance workout classes like barre, Body FX, or zumba benefit both your body and your brain. First, let’s talk about the physical benefits you’ll see when you begin a dance workout program. Dancing is one of the most effective workouts you can do for your core, including your transverse abdominis (the deep layer of the core), rectus abdominis (the six-pack), internal obliques, external obliques, and your back. The twisting and turning motions of many different dances help to improve spinal flexibility while strengthening and toning your core muscles, sending you well on your way to the six-pack abs of your dreams. Unlike more repetitive forms of exercise, such as running or cycling, dancing is unlikely to cause overuse injuries, such as shin splints or runner’s knee, that result from doing the same motion over and over again. Dancing moves your body in all different directions and incorporates all of your major muscle groups, so you’ll see strengthening and toning results in your core, upper body, and lower body. You’ll see your flexibility increase, too; because dancing requires a huge range of motion, your body will be reaching and stretching in all different directions no matter which style you choose. Dancing has also been shown to strengthen all of the tiny stabilizing muscles that we don’t even think about, especially in the feet and legs. Strengthening these muscles helps to improve balance and stability, making you less prone to injury and dangerous falls as we age, so dancing is an excellent fitness choice for older adults.
Beyond the physical benefits, dancing is also great for your brain and spirit, and it has specifically been shown to reduce cognitive decline in aging adults. A 2017 study showed that white brain matter, which impacts our brain’s processing and memory abilities, increased in adults who danced regularly, giving you all the more reason to get out there and boogie. There are social benefits to dancing, too, as studies have shown that dancing improves confidence in people with social anxiety. Even if you choose to do your dance workout at home in the comfort of your own living room, you don’t have to miss out on the social connection element of dance. Some online fitness communities offer opportunities to connect with other users for accountability and friendship, and some also offer personalized coaching and tips to help you reach your fitness goals.
#2 You Can Find a Fun Dance Workout Class Pretty Much Anywhere
With all of the latest technology, you don’t have to take physical classes at a dance studio or your local gym in order to join a dance workout class. Still, some people may prefer the in-person interaction and instruction of dancing in a group. If you think you’d feel more comfortable with a dance teacher who is helping you to learn the choreography slowly, an in-person studio that focuses on teaching dance might be a great place to start. If you already have access to a local gym or are considering joining one, check to see if the gym offers dance classes as part of their fitness curriculum. Finally, if you’d prefer to pirouette in private, look into joining an online fitness community with access to hundreds of hours of dance videos online, like Body FX. No matter what your preference, you’ll be able to find an option that works for you!
#3 Choosing a Class is Easy
In order to set yourself up for success and find a dance workout class that you love, you’ll want to ask yourself three important questions. First, how much dance experience do you have? People who are new to dance or who aren’t confident in their ability to pick up moves quickly should choose a dance class or video that is geared towards beginners. These classes will walk you through the choreography step by step before putting all the moves together. Second, what kind of music do you like? Dancing is more fun when you love the music that you’re dancing to, and there is basically an unlimited variety of options out there. Whether you’re into hip-hop or salsa, there’s a dance class out there that’s right for you. Finally, what is your current fitness level and injury history? If you’re just starting a workout routine or you struggle with chronic injuries, it’s recommended that you choose a dance video or workout class that offers modifications for different movements. Having different options for choreography will ensure that you can still fully participate in the workout and feel great while you do it.
#4 You Don’t Need Much to Get Started
Unlike some workout regimens, it’s easy to get started with dancing because you don’t need much to get started, and no special equipment is required. While some formal dance studios may require special shoes for certain classes, like tap, many classes will have you working out in sturdy sneakers or entirely barefoot. If you’re working out at a gym or at home, you won’t need to invest in any fancy shoes; any comfortable, non-slip shoes that won’t rub or cause blisters will do. You’ll be working up a sweat, so you’ll also want to make sure that you wear comfortable clothes, preferably with moisture-wicking capabilities, in order to stay cool and comfy. Make sure whatever outfit you choose allows for a full range of motion, since dancing will have you stretching and shaking all over the place. You’ll also want to have a water bottle ready and waiting nearby so that you can stay hydrated during your workout. Make sure you take regular breaks to grab water. Finally, you’ll need plenty of space to move. If you’re dancing at home, be prepared to push your furniture out of the way or spread out in an empty room. You don’t want the couch getting in the way!
#5 A Few Tips Will Maximize Your Results
While dancing alone is sure to improve your cardiovascular fitness and help you tone up on its own, adding in a few more elements will help you maximize your results and reach your goals. If toning your body and increasing your strength is your goal, learn more about your anatomy and the different muscle groups in the body. Increasing your knowledge of the different muscle groups will help you choose a workout that targets the areas you’d like to see results in. For example, we’ve already mentioned that dancing provides a fantastic core workout in general, but if you’re looking to get closer to six-pack abs, try seeking out dance styles like belly dancing and salsa that incorporate more twisting and turning to strengthen your core. Understanding your anatomy will also help you avoid styles of dance that might reaggravate old injuries, like avoiding ballet if you have ankle issues. As you become more familiar with your anatomy, try adding supplementary exercises to strengthen the muscles of your body, such as your core, feet, and ankles, to give you added strength and power while you dance. You’ll notice that as your core strengthens, your range of motion will also improve.
Fueling your body properly can also help maximize your results. While it’s true that you’ll still notice an increase in your stamina and strength even if you continue to eat junk food, you’ll see even better results if you focus on limiting junk food and incorporating plenty of fruits and veggies, lean meat, and whole grains to make sure you have the energy you need for your workouts. Along those same lines, staying hydrated all day long – not just during your workouts – is extremely important. You should be drinking eight to ten glasses of water per day, plus additional water during your workout.
Finally, don’t be afraid to mix up the style of dance you choose once in a while. Of course you want your workout to be fun and enjoyable, but if it’s possible to incorporate new styles, you’ll see bigger results because you’ll work a variety of muscles. You might even find a new favorite song while you’re at it!
The Four Secrets
You’ve waited so patiently, and now it’s time to reveal the four secrets of lower back pain muscle relief. None of these secrets is a magic bullet, and some might even qualify as common sense, but they are often left out of the conversation surrounding treatment.
- Stretch your hamstrings: Those big muscles running down the backs of your thighs, also known as your hamstrings, play a major role in lower back pain. Tightness in the hamstrings causes pulling on the lower back and sacroiliac joints, causing additional pain and stiffness. Stretching twice daily for 30 to 60 seconds at a time can help reduce lower back pain, but it’s not as simple as bending over at the waist and reaching for your toes if you’re struggling with lower back issues. Try lying on your back on the floor with your buttocks as close to the wall as you can get and your legs stretched up against the wall. Try to straighten your knees as much as possible, feeling the stretch down the backs of the legs. This minimizes strain on the low back.
- Teach your brain: Our bodies respond to physical causes of pain, but the way we perceive pain depends on our brains. Studies have shown that techniques such as mindfulness practices, meditation, and cognitive behavioral therapy techniques can help our brains relax, process pain differently, and may even help reduce the sensation of pain. Consider downloading a mindfulness or meditation app and practicing when you are feeling pain and need your muscles to relax.
- Do something fun: It seems unbelievably simple, but studies have shown that our perception of pain diminishes when we are doing something fun or enjoyable due to the rush of endorphins our brains receive. Lower back pain might limit your activities, but you can still find pleasure in things you enjoy, like watching a favorite tv show, enjoying a sunset, or catching up with an old friend.
- Get plenty of rest: Acute lower back pain caused by soft tissue sprains and injuries benefits tremendously from getting enough sleep. Why? Our bodies heal when we sleep, so if you’re not getting enough restorative rest, your recovery time will be much longer from a back injury.