Dance: The Ultimate Lifestyle Improvement System

By Cecily Guest, AFAA, NCEP certified instructor

Could it be that there’s one, singular way to burn fat, tone muscle, reduce stress, increase serotonin levels, protect against heart disease, dementia and depression, make you smarter and bring you closer to friends and family? Yes! It’s called dancing.

For many exercisers there’s no secret that dance-aerobics burns 300-500 calories per 60 minute workout. Others have learned that dance classes can quickly tone leg muscles as well as muscles of the upper arm, chest and upper back. But recent studies like the one I found in the New England Journal of Medicine reports that the one activity that offered the greatest risk protection against dementia was dance. Golf and cycling offered 0% protection, reading a crossword puzzling offered 35-47% protection, dance offers up to 76% protection against dementia.

The cerebral cortex and hippocampus which are critical to [dance] are remarkably plastic, and they rewire themselves based upon their use” say on Havard Medical School psychiatrist.

If you want to loose weight while dancing you’ll have to pick up the pace as slow dance, ballet and casual clubbing don’t raise your heart rate enough for high caloric burn. Once you’ve found the best dance based exercise program to suit your personality you’ll be more likely to stick with it because you’ll actually enjoy yourself and you’ll start to look forward to interacting with the other students. Don’t worry if you’re a little uncoordinated. You’re not going for an Olympic medal and there are no Hollywood stars waiting to give you the buzzer. Relax and have fun in your dance-based workouts.

One of the most popular dance-based exercise forms in the last 10-years is Zumba ™, created by fitness instructor Alberto “Beto” Perez. The format has more than 12 million people in 125 countries following and using it to get into better shape. Zumba’s popularity exists in many local, community studios and dance halls as followers consider it to be the only fitness experience they need. It’s a total body workout with some intricate Latin based moves, which help improve coordination, balance and cognitive skills. Classes in your area are easy to find on Zumba’s website and most local studios charge as little as $5 per class. This means you can easily take Zumba ™ 3-5 days per week. Plus there are frequent Zumba-thons in the Bay Area which are usually associated with charity drives.

Here are some unofficial signs you’re serious about Zumba:

1. You own Zumba ™ gear

2. You find that you are doing Zumba workouts more than once a week.

3. You are humming Zumba ™ songs in the shower, kitchen, while pumping gas, etc.

4. When you meet fun people, you try to get them to go to class with you

5. Your kids, spouses and in-laws join you at least once a week

6. You’re a “gidder done” type of guy who finds himself leading the dance line at weddings

7. You’re loosing weight and burning fat with a smile on your face.

8. You have a Zumba ™ song as your ring tone

9. You’re thinking of getting certified to teach Zumba ™

10. You made a fitness budget that includes Zumba ™ workouts.

Guest is owner of Progressive Fitness in Antioch.

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