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Dance yourself fit

WebMD Feature
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

Salsa, techno, swing, hip-hop, ballroom dancing: whatever you love, it's all good. Good exercise, that is. Just about any dance style can raise your heart rate, burn calories and tone muscles. It will make you feel good too.

"Any form of dancing is a great form of aerobic exercise," says Zumba Education Specialist Caroline Parsons. "Not only does it raise the heart rate, burn fat and tone muscles, but it also helps with core strength, balance and co-ordination."

The beauty is that, for many people - women, men and kids - dancing doesn’t feel like exercise. It's all about the joy of movement and getting into the groove.

Image credit: Fotolia

Singer-songwriter and dancer, Lemon, started dancing from the age of three, and then went on to train at Italia Conti at the age of 15. For her dancing is a great mind and body workout, and she has since danced all over the world for pop acts such as Dizzee Rascal and Paloma Faith.

Lizzie Gough has been a dancer since she was 16 and performs internationally, appearing in music videos, commercials, TV shows and live performances. Sometimes she also teaches classes. "Dancing is a fantastic form of exercise," she tells BootsWebMD, "because you can literally do it anywhere at anytime, whether it be in a dance class, on stage, in your living room, in your bathroom, in a club or even at a bus stop. As long as you have a bit of space you can train or dance however you like."

Then, there's Zumba. It launched in the 1990s, when Colombian dancer and choreographer Alberto "Beto" Perez pioneered a blend of hip-hop, soca, samba, salsa, mambo, martial arts and some Bollywood and belly dance moves with exercises like squats and lunges. With over 140,000 locations across more than 150 countries, Zumba has been a real hit.

"The main reason why the Zumba Fitness programme is so successful is because it’s fun and enjoyable," says Caroline Parsons. "For the first time ever some people are sticking to a fitness program because they love it and because it works.

"The other advantage is there are Zumba DVD box sets, which is a great way of learning all the moves and steps at home or doing a full workout if you can’t get to a class; plus video games for the X-Box, PlayStation or Wii consoles that you can use with your family and friends.

"It’s a fun way to exercise without realising you’re exercising."

Why dance?

Lemon says: "Dancing is moving ... anybody can dance. You can dance sitting in a chair, dance with your friends, follow a DVD, do a class, or dance to some music in the comfort of your own home! It doesn't matter whether you do five or 10 minutes at a time or more, dancing is fun and is a form of expression! Everyone can do it and so can all ages!"

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