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You've seen the promos all over the Web and TV: Britney Spears in full regalia for her Circus tour, prancing around in sexy ringleader, dancer, and gymnast getups, twisting, turning, and flipping her legs to sharply choreographed hip-hop moves. But one thing those costumes can't hide is Britney's athletic yet curvy body -- basically, the kind of shape we all strive for. Is that what dancing can do for us? Absolutely, says Dave Van Daff, Senior Director of Education & Development for Bally Total Fitness.
"Most dancing is a high-intensity cardiovascular workout encompassing constant, rhythmical movements for extended periods of time," Van Daff explains. "Therefore, it burns high amounts of calories and body fat."
Not only that, but "hip-hop especially requires explosive and powerful plyometric movements that develop strength, endurance, and flexibility," Van Daff says. Think jumping, skipping, hopping, and other two-feet-off-the-ground types of exercise. These high-intensity moves burn fat, build muscle, and increase bone density.
Moreover, Britney also lifts weights and runs, according to her Web site, which enhance her endurance, coordination, stability, and fluidity of movement, not to mention decrease the odds of injury.
To get into tour-ready shape, Britney headed to renowned choreographer Jamie King, who's also worked with Madonna, Rihanna, and other superstars who put on sweat-worthy shows. But while you probably can't hire King for your own personal routine, you can work out to his DVD, Rock Your Body (Good Times Video, $14.99), which features a short workout and how-to moves for a hip-hop routine.
Rock Your Body isn't a traditional workout video, so some of its styling is kind of rough (King says "go left" when he's moving right, for example, since he's facing you). Still, you'll really feel your abs and core engage as you learn the steps.
"All dance moves begin at the core," Van Daff says. "You can't shake, squat, bend, twirl, gyrate or any other dance related movement without a strong core."
And not only is dancing incredibly effective physical exercise, but few activities beat it as a feel-good mood lifter. "It's easy to lose focus and attention to the length of time and physical intensity while dancing," Van Daff says. "Therefore, you're likely to burn more calories dancing than, say, walking on a treadmill, and you'll also perform more muscle endurance activity via squatting, striding, and bending than you will during a typical gym circuit."
Believe it, girls: It might be time to trade your running shoes for dancing shoes.
Originally published on FitnessMagazine.com, March 2009.