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Harvard Commentaries
Harvard Commentaries
Reviewed by the Faculty of Harvard Medical School

Focus on Fitness Focus on Fitness

Dance Your Way to Fitness

July 09, 2013

By Howard LeWine M.D.

Brigham and Women's Hospital

Are you bored with the treadmill or elliptical trainer or uncomfortable in a weight training room? Try achieving your weight loss goals or spicing up your current fitness routine through dance. Dance is a great way to lose weight, increase energy and improve your overall fitness — all while having fun.

Waning motivation and inconsistency are common roadblocks to reaching your fitness goals. One of the best ways to remain enthusiastic and stay on track is to find something you truly enjoy doing on a regular basis.

Although, we can't all be prima ballerinas, dancing has long been known as a great source of exercise and self-expression. In today's multi-cultural society, we're exposed to diverse styles of dance and music, many of which are showing up in dance classes at fitness facilities and local community centers. Below are some examples of dance disciplines that could help you kick-off or reinvigorate your fitness routine.


No longer is this dance only for the young and slim. Ballet is a great way to improve posture and flexibility. You can tighten your abs and firm your buttocks while trimming and toning the muscles in your legs and arms. Ballet is especially appealing to those who enjoy classical music.

Many gyms, community centers and dance schools offer ballet classes for adults of all shapes and sizes. Once you learn the basic moves, you can work out at home. As you your mind and muscles become trained, you can increase the intensity and duration of your routines for a rewarding aerobic workout. In addition to classic ballet, some fitness centers also offer ballet-inspired exercise classes, such as ballet sculpt and BalleCore™ — a combination of yoga, ballet and Pilates.


Flamenco is derived from an expressive art form created by the gypsies who left India around the 13th century and settled in Spain. Flamenco combines singing, hand clapping, and finger snapping along with rhythmic footwork and stomping.

The vigorous arm movements and rapid toe-heel clicking will have your whole body moving. As you get the moves down, you'll be able to pick up their speed and power. Flamenco dancing is guaranteed to get your heart pounding and lungs expanding.

Hip Hop

Generally associated with urban youth culture, hip hop dance is typically a choreographed workout to hip hop (or rap) music. This can be a really fun way to learn new dance moves while getting a great workout.

Ballroom Dancing

The hit television show "Dancing With The Stars" has brought a surge in popularity to ballroom dancing. Bring your own partner or meet someone new in a ballroom dance class. Even slower-paced dances help you tone your muscles, build endurance, and improve flexibility and balance. With practice, you'll be ready to tango, cha-cha and foxtrot at your relative's wedding.

Dance Video Games

If dance classes don't fit your style or schedule, get a great dance-based workout in the privacy of your own home with jazz, Latin, disco, or even tap dance exercise DVDs.

There's even a video game built around a dance workout routine. Just choose a song and the game choreographs the dance steps. Arrows on your television screen will point up, down, right and left. The game comes with a square, plastic dance pad that you place in front on your television. The direction of the arrows on the screen tells you how to move your feet on the pad. Sounds easy enough, but once it gets going, you'll quickly break a sweat as you try to keep the beat. The more advanced versions display how many calories you burned.

Burning Calories Without the Boredom

You can burn 400 calories or more in an hour of fast-paced dancing. You might burn a little more with jogging on a treadmill — but it won't be nearly as much fun. And the time will go by so much faster as you shake, sway, twirl, and boogie your way to fitness.

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Howard LeWine, M.D., is chief editor of Internet publishing, Harvard Health Publications. He is a clinical instructor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital. Dr. LeWine has been a primary care internist and teacher of internal medicine since 1978.

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