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Five Ways to Dance Your Way Fit

Written on July 21, 2011 at 12:56 pm , by

Written by Alexa Cortese, web intern

Dance. For some, the word evokes memories of tutus and dreams of being a ballerina as a young girl. For others, it is an expression of self, a way of life or a fun way to get in shape. In fact, it can be all the above! Dance is a great way to have fun while exercising, to learn new things, and to challenge yourself.

Not the graceful type?  Not to worry. There are many forms of dance besides ballet, and a lot of the dance fitness classes that are offered at gyms across the country even combine culture and aerobics with dance to provide a unique and interesting approach at fitness! We spoke to Andrea Rogers, creator of Xtend Barre: Lean and Chiseled, and Kimberly Miguel Mullen, star and creator of Dance and Be Fit: Carnaval Workout for more information about five of the most popular methods.

Belly dancing can blast some serious fat! (Photo by Chris Fanning)

Belly Dancing

Though the exact origin of belly dancing is unknown, it has been around in Middle Eastern countries for centuries. It’s low-impact, but still will challenge you aerobically. Belly dancing is great for posture, flexibility and your Shakira-style dance game! Plus, “hip exercises aid to relieve PMS and help in preparing for child birth and post-natal rehabilitation for rebuilding abdominal muscles,” adds Miguel Mullen. “Even though the movements are small and isolated, you will work your core muscles differently than you are used to so you will feel it the next day.”


Zumba is a form of dance that is influenced by a combination of many Latin dance styles (think flamenco, meringue and salsa combined with aerobics). It first came to be known in its current form in 1986, when Alberto “Beto” Perez held the first Zumba fitness class in Columbia. These classes became increasingly popular, and came to the United States in 1999. “Zumba introduces a variety of movement that requires a level of coordination of rarely accessed core muscle groups which forces the body to work harder and burn more calories,” Miguel Mullen says. Zumba is designed to keep your heart rate up and improve your strength, stamina, and coordination. And most importantly for long-term success: It’s fun!

To learn more about barre, Pilates and hip-hop workouts, click below.

Barre workouts, like Xtend Barre, require balance, strength and concentration. (Photo courtesy of AcaciaLifestyle)

Barre Classes

Classes that use a ballet barre, but also incorporate dance, yoga, pilates and stretching are often referred to as “barre classes.” This format originated in 1940s London, and was created by well-known European dancer Lotte Berk. Rogers told us that her company’s tagline, “no tutus required,” explains the barre trend well. (In other words, you can complete these sessions regardless of your background with dance or ballet.) Barre classes help with grace, coordination and muscle strength. Small specific movements sculpt your muscles and your mind gets a workout too—these classes take a lot of concentration and attention.


Pilates was created by Joseph Pilates in the 1920s as a form of physical rehabilitation. He first treated soldiers who were injured in war, as well as dancers in order to heal them. Pilates strengthens your muscles, especially the abs and back—parts of the body that may be weak or in frequent pain. Pilates also incorporates the mind and breathing into the routine. Beginners may find it challenging, but classes are offered at every level.


Do you ever wonder how you can learn some of the moves you see in music videos or snag some new steps for the club? Try a hip-hop class. “They’re high energy dance workouts that can condition your heart and lungs and increase your aerobic fitness level,” says Miguel Mullen. The intricate routines can also help to improve coordination, muscular strength, flexibility, agility, balance and spatial awareness. With all of those benefits, who wouldn’t want to participate?

Now tell us: What’s your favorite kind of dance?

  • Jenny

    Jazzercise! It’s 60 minutes of dancing cardio, strength training, and stretching. Choreography that is set to today’s top music and gaining muscle strength and heart health. I walk out of classes drenched and can’t wait to go back!

  • mar g

    Contra Dance is a form of partnered folk dance, which I enjoy as often as possible. Contra Dancing may have begun in France, but is generally accompanied by Anglo-Celtic music, and enjoyed by all ages.

    There are even some contra dances done to techno music. Talk about a work-out!

  • Leslie

    JAZZERCISE! It’s the best of everything…dance cardio, kickboxing, pilates, resistance training, salsa.

  • Jennifer S

    West Coast Swing dancing! I am addicted to it. It’s known as the “sophisticated” form of swing dancing. Watch it on YouTube. You’ll be amazed.

  • http://www.brittnaegiesau.com Brittnae Giesau

    Hip Hop!!! I teach a hip hop class and i have the MOST fun with my class that I have working out all week. i always get the best calorie burn because i’m doing it with a group and we are just dancing it out!!! So happy to see hip hop on the list :)

  • Kelly

    I love Jazzercise! I don’t understand why magazines and media fail to promote this fantastic form of exercise. Jazzercise should be at the top of this list!

  • fit gal

    Pole Dance Fitness!

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GjFSkDpjnwM Blandina

    I LOVE Hot Hula Fitness! This is a fun way to sweat it all off.


  • Jenn

    I love Just Dance on Wii. I have worn a heart rate monitor while playing and I burned 250 calories in a half an hour. Not bad and so much fun.

  • Tabitha

    You know, my girlfriend does bellydance class and loves it! I’ve been thinking about it – but i think i would rather enjoy some good ole hip hop!

  • Vobal

    I absolutely LOVE zumba! It’s fast paced, and it’s okay to mess up because everyone else is too busy trying to keep up to worry about anyone else. :-) I often don’t even look at the clock until the class is almost over.

  • http://sparkpeople.com Morethenamom39

    I enjoy doing Belly Dancing and Zumba. I have done Belly Dancing before and I just started going to a Zumba class. It is fast paced and leaves you feeling pumped up.

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