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Dancing is one workout that allows you to march to the beat of a different drummer, beat, bop or groove. And if you’ve ever seen Dancing with the Stars, you know there’s direct evidence at how fantastic a shaper-upper it is.

The steps, patterns and music keep your mind busy while you work your heart, burn calories and tone your muscles. Before you know it, you're drenched with sweat and feel exhilarated.

Nearly everyone can find some type of dancing to enjoy, from hip-hop to country line, from Irish step to jazz, from pole dancing to waltzing, from belly to Bali.

Folks who wouldn’t be caught dead pumping iron or doing squat thrusts can help keep fit while dancing the night away.

Upside of Dancing

  • Dancing allows you to explore different cultures and rhythms with styles such as salsa, ballet, swing, belly dancing and, yes, disco.

  • It builds balance coordination and style.

  • It's also a wonderful way to meet people.

  • You can have so much fun you’ll forget you’re getting exercise.

  • A huge range of styles are available in a wide range of locations, from dance studio to fitness club to community center. There’s also tons of great dance-style workout DVDs on the market for all levels of exercisers.

Downside of Dancing

  • It's easy to get tangled in the footwork or overload your circuits if you're not a natural or you try too much too soon.

  • Shy people might find it hard to get started in dancing.

  • Depending on the location, the quality of instruction and attention to technique and safety can vary greatly.

Is Dancing for You?

 This chart can help you see how dancing fits your goals and lifestyle concerns.

Body Parts Worked Varies depending on the type -- in general the cardiovascular and musculoskeletal systems.
Calories Burned In general, about 306 calories an hour for a 150-pound person, 408 for a 200-pound person. A slow foxtrot will burn fewer calories than square dancing or disco.
Gear Comfortable clothing and shoes. Some styles require specific shoes and even costumes depending on how serious you get. Inquire about footwear and clothing requirements if you plan to take lessons.
Instruction/Facilities Classes are offered at community centers, ethnic societies, colleges, adult continuing education programs, dance schools, dance clubs and fitness centers. Private lessons are also available.
Time Typically 60-90 minutes.
Schedule/Flexibility Fits most schedules; ask about hours at your nearby facility.

Dancing Tips

  • Classes and dances are widely available. Check your newspaper’s weekend section or a community Web site.

  • You can usually try one class before committing to a series of lessons.

  • You can go to a disco or country-western club and freestyle to your heart's content. Lessons are not a must.

  • When you’re getting started, you may get winded easily. Take breaks and drink water when needed.

  • If you are taking a class that requires a partner, note that most classes have you change partners every few minutes.

Liz Neporent, MA on Dancing

Many forms of dancing are a great way for couples to spend some time together, but some, such as line dancing, are excellent for singles.

Consider contra dancing, a fun and energetic type of folk dancing similar to square dancing that is available in many communities. Typically contra dances are held in the auditorium of a community center, church or school at low cost, as little as $5 a night. A caller gives directions while a small band plays. You change partners frequently. Newcomers benefit from the instruction that is generally offered before the dance. This is a great activity for anyone, including singles and families.

Belly dancing, pole dancing and many other styles have also become popular. Swing dancing is no longer the hit as it was in the 1990s, but if you can find it you can have a great workout and a lot of fun. Do you have kids? Ballet, Irish step and other classes get many children off the couch and away from the TV.

iVillagers on Dancing

"As a lifelong dancer, I must say that dance has molded my physique, tuned my connection between mind and body, and given me poise, balance and strength. You'll find places within yourself that have wanted to dance your whole life and will thank you for giving them the chance." -- iVillager carnee

"At 45 I returned to dancing after 28 years away from it. I lost 23 pounds in four months and haven't put an ounce of it back on. I am now 54 and in better shape than I have been since my late teens." -- An iVillager

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