Focus on Fitness: Dance Fitness holds health benefits for everyone | SteamboatToday.com

Focus on Fitness: Dance Fitness holds health benefits for everyone

Deb Curd/For Steamboat Today

Dance has been part of the fitness world since 1969, when Jazzercise was first introduced by Judi Sheppard Misset. Since then, it's exploded into hundreds of crazes and genres, such as Zumba Fitness, Dance Fit, Masala Bhangra and more recently, Dancinerate and Cize. Each program has its niche, but all promote the same philosophy — get fit to music. Some programs use weights, while others focus on aerobic activity and tone a sleek body with power moves.

Despite what you may think, dance fitness isn't just for dancers. If you can tap your foot to the beat at the Steamboat free concerts, you can incorporate dance fitness into your workout plan, and you will have fun doing it. There are many benefits to dance fitness in addition to the obvious cardio workout.

• Manage your weight — My fitness app reports I burn more than 500 calories for a 60-minute Zumba class. Most dance fitness programs keep you moving for a full hour. They change up the songs and tempo, creating an interval workout that challenges your whole body and burns the calories

• Improve your balance — With our winter environment, having quick reflexes and balance can be a lifesaver (and bone saver) on the ice. Dance fitness choreography uses both left and right leads, giving you a keen sense of your body moving through space while connecting with the floor. The quick change of directions requires a centered weight balance and demands better posture while working your stabilizing muscles.

• Boost your brainpower — A 21-year study of senior citizens published in the New England Journal of Medicine investigated leisure activities and the incidence of Alzheimer's disease and vascular dementia. Out of 11 leisure activities, dancing ranked most effective at reducing dementia by 76 percent. It's brain fitness.

• Improve flexibility and agility — We've all seen or heard about the pro football player who's taking dance classes to give him more agility on the field. Whether a pro athlete or an active adult, our muscles become less elastic as we age. Dance fitness provides a low impact method to attain more flexibility and reduce muscle stiffness while sharpening motor control.

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• Elevate mood and reduce stress — When you hear your favorite song, you naturally perk up, play the drums on your steering wheel or pick up the pace on the treadmill. Like most exercise, dance sends natural endorphins to your brain and elevates your mood. Moreover, using all your muscles to move to the music enhances this powerful effect.

• Make friends — A key aspect of dance fitness is the low-pressure environment that allows you to practice new moves without a spotlight. Due to the social nature of dance, a dance fitness class provides a group of people and a party atmosphere where friendships are born.

The key is to finding a dance fitness program that you'll stick with is to find a program and instructor that fit into your style and schedule. There are so many classes offered today: Some are geared toward kids, some are Latin-based and some are Top 40 Hip Hop. Others are specifically designed for older adults. It doesn't matter your age, shape or physical fitness ability Gettin' down on the dance floor, or at least the fitness floor, provides an element of diversity in your fitness program that makes you a healthier and happier individual. Start building your brain and muscles today with dance fitness.

Deb Curd is a fitness instructor at Old Town Hot Springs. She is AAFA Group Fitness and Zumba Fitness certified.

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