If you’re ready to burn calories and get in shape but can’t stomach the idea of spending mindless hours on the elliptical or recumbent bike, you might have more fun with a natural form of fitness that also happens to be one of the most effective total-body workouts: dance! We have a tendency to forget that dance is more than just fun – it’s a great workout – because we’re so used to doing it for fun and entertainment. Who says working out can’t be both? If you’re looking for a fun dance workout that incorporates cardio and dance fitness, there are more places to find one than you might think, including online fitness communities like Body FX, in-studio classes at a formal dance studio, or dance-focused classes at your gym, like Zumba and Figure 8. The best dance workout is the one you want to do every day, so we’ll explore how you can find a fun dance workout that’s right for you, plus all of the hidden benefits of dance you didn’t know existed.
What Makes Dance Such a Great Workout?
As the hidden gem of the fitness industry, dance often surprises people with its effectiveness as a workout. There are six major reasons that a fun dance workout will provide major health benefits while also keeping you entertained:
- Total Body Exercise: Have you ever noticed that many traditional forms of exercise require a lot of repetitive motion? Running, for example, requires the same motion over and over again. In addition to placing a ton of impact on the body (making it easy to develop overuse injuries), these forms of exercise only work a few muscle groups. By contrast, dance has your body moving in every direction and incorporates all of your major muscle groups. Whether you’re looking to see improvement in your core, upper body, or lower body, you’ll get it all through cardio dance. The great thing about dance cardio is you can get in a good HIIT workout that’s also low-impact.
- Healthy Body, Healthy Brain: You know dance is good for your body, but did you know that it’s also good for your brain? Dancing has 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. There are social benefits to dancing, too, as studies have shown that dancing improves confidence in people with social anxiety. Working out at home? You don’t have to miss out on the social connection aspect. Online fitness communities like Body FX provide not only workouts, but also accountability and friendship.
- Stronger Core, Stronger You: All that twisting and turning while you shimmy and shake is a recipe for ripped abs, or at least a stronger core. Dance works every layer of the core, including your transverse abdominis (the deep layer of the core), rectus abdominis (the six-pack), internal obliques, external obliques, and your back. Dance also mimics the natural movement of your body, so it is less likely to result in overuse injuries, and it serves as functional fitness. However, it’s important to remember to always warm-up before getting a work out started whether that’s a toning workout, home workout, or even a hip hop dance workout.
- Get Flexible Fast: Dancing requires a huge range of motion, and that means your body is stretching in all different directions. Big improvements can be seen in your flexibility if you stick with dancing, which is different from other forms of exercise that are more repetitive. Repetitive forms of exercise, such as cycling, tend to reduce flexibility, while dance improves it.
- Strengthen Your Stabilizing Muscles: Weight training is great (and important!), but you tend to focus primarily on the large muscle groups, like the glutes, hamstrings or biceps. Dance helps strengthen all of the tiny stabilizing muscles that we don’t even think about, especially in the feet and legs. Strengthening the muscles helps to improve balance and stability, making you less prone to injury and dangerous falls as we age.
- Fun Fitness: There’s a reason why little kids love to dance – it’s fun! Once you find the right dance workout with music that gets you moving and moves that feel good, you’ll never dread working out.
How Do I Find a Fun Dance Workout?
The first step to finding a fun dance workout is to decide, in general, where you’d like to work out. Are you a homebody or someone who has an atypical schedule? Joining an online fitness community with access to hundreds of hours of dance videos online and dance workout videos, like Body FX, might be the right fit for you. If you’d like to have 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 belong to a gym or are considering joining one, check to see if the gym offers dance classes as part of their fitness curriculum. Once you’ve narrowed down where you’d like to dance, it’s time to find the perfect dance workout. You’ll want to take into consideration three things:
- Experience: How much dance experience do you have? If you have never taken a dance class and aren’t confident that you’ll be able to pick up the steps quickly, choose a dance class or video that is geared towards beginners. These workouts will be more fun for you because you’ll learn the steps one at a time before putting them all together. It won’t be long before you’re ready to move up to more advanced workouts!
- Musical Taste: The fastest way to make sure you have a fun dance workout is to choose a style of music that you like. After all, if you hate country music, why would you want to dance to it? This is one of the areas where online workout options like Body FX truly excel: you have nearly unlimited options of every type of dance and style of music that you can imagine! You’re likely to find plenty of options at your local gym or dance studio, too.
- Injury History and Current Fitness Level: If you have a history of injuries, such as a bad knee, or you haven’t worked out in a long time, you’ll want to choose a dance video or class that offers plenty of modifications. The different options for choreography will ensure that you can still fully participate in the workout and feel great while you do it.
What Do I Need to Get Started?
One of the best things about dance as a workout is that you don’t need any special equipment to get started, no matter where you decide to boogie. The only things you’ll need to get started include:
- Comfortable non-slip shoes: Unless you’re taking a dance class that requires special shoes, like tap dancing or ballet, at a studio, you won’t need to invest in fancy shoes for dance workouts. Just make sure that they’re comfortable, won’t rub or cause blisters, and won’t slip on a hard surface.
- Comfortable non-restrictive clothing: Remember how we mentioned the wide range of motion that comes with dance workouts? Make sure your workout clothes account for that. Think about hip-hop dancers- They typically wear baggy pants to avoid motion restriction in the legs. Since you’re likely to work up a sweat, aim for something that allows you to move freely and is also moisture-wicking, which will help keep you cool without compromising your dance moves.
- Water Bottle: Just because you’re having fun doesn’t mean you can skip out on hydration! Make sure you have a water bottle nearby, and take breaks to drink regularly. Dancing for fitness might be fun, but it’s still hard work.
- Space to Move: If you’re dancing at a gym or studio, make sure you spread out and give yourself plenty of room to move around in class. If you’re working out in the comfort of your own home, get your room ready ahead of time and move the furniture a bit if you need more space. Spread out your stuff so that you’ve got plenty of space to move and groove.
How Do I Make Sure I’m Getting the Most Out of My Workout?
Whether you’ve got serious goals or you’re just looking to move more and get in better shape, you can enhance your results by focusing on just a few things.
- Learn Your Anatomy: If you have specific areas of your body that you’d like to tone and improve, learning your anatomy can help you choose your workouts more carefully. For example, we’ve already established that dancing is a great core workout as well as a cardio workout, but if you’re looking for toning and a tight tummy, dance styles like belly dancing and salsa incorporate a lot of twisting and turning that strengthen your core and promote weight loss. It’s the real secret to sculpting your muscles. Understanding your anatomy will also help you avoid styles of dance that might reaggravate old injuries.
- Fuel Your Body: It’s no secret that dance is considered a true cardio dance workout that increases your heart rate and gets your body moving. Dancing is fun, but it’s hard work, so make sure you’re fueling your body right for your workouts. Work 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.
- Hydrate: You need to hydrate well all day long, not just during your workouts. Aim to drink at least 64 ounces a day, plus additional water during your workouts.
- Supplement Your Workouts: If you want to kick it up a notch, consider supplementing your workouts with core stabilization exercises. Working your core doesn’t have to be complicated; simple total body moves like holding a plank work your entire body and strengthen your core at the same time. You’ll notice that as your core strengthens, your range of motion will also improve.
- Mix It Up: You should definitely focus on the type of workout, or dance routine, that is fun for you, but try and mix it up a little if possible. Think of it more as a dance party than a workout. Incorporating several different styles of dance into your workout routine will help you work a variety of muscles. Plus, you’ll be learning something new!