Partying all night, drinking and eating away to glory, bunking your gym sessions, unmindful of all the calories that you have piled on, but now worried about how to cut the flab? Well, it is simple. Just dance your way to shed those extra pounds. And not just regular gymmers, and fitness enthusiasts, but even those who are complete novices can give dance fitness a try. As Uday Raj Anand, co-founder, Crush Fitness India that has its dance fitness classes in over 100 fitness centres, gyms, corporates and standalone studios across Delhi/NCR, and other metros, says, “While the fitness and wellness craze seems to be overtaking Instagram and all forms of media, the truth remains that a vast segment of the population remains outside the envelope of regular exercise. In our experience, dance fitness has been a very effective way to help people make that first step towards fitness.”
Hot and happening
Hot on the list is pole fitness or pole sport. Former actor Smiley Suri, a pole sports trainer, says that pole fitness is a trending workout across the globe because it comes with many takeaways. “You are not only lifting your own body weight, but also doing cardiovascular training because you are dancing, climbing the pole, doing a trick or an inversion, and that means you are challenging your mind, body, and neuromuscular coordination,” says Suri.
At Pole Star India, one has to go through international syllabus which involves a pole, chair tricks, and floorwork. The course that she offers has a beginner’s level, pre-elementary, and then one moves on to the next level where grips, moves, tricks, flip, inversion, etc. become tougher.
The trick lies in some clever adaptation of most forms of dance. At Crush Club, Anand utilises five forms of dance as the base foundation of dance fitness class — Bhangra, Salsa, Bollywood, Merengue and Hip Hop. “Jazz is used as a link form to hold all these others together in a coherent format. Each form is used to target a different aspect of fitness. For instance, Bhangra is typically utilised as a high-intensity form with a greater focused on ‘bouncy’ steps that mimic plyometric exercise. The overhead movement of the hands in many steps increases the heart rate, while the jumps train calves and quads. Salsa on the other hand trains core control, hip mobility, and we use it as active recovery with lower intensity to allow people to catch their breaths without having to stop. Merengue has small and quick foot movements to train agility, and in some forms of Hip Hop we focus on muscle isolation,” he informs.
Mixing fun and fitness
Prajyoti Madhusudan of Pushpanjali Dance Company and exponent of Natya Aerobics is all for dance fitness because “it is an enjoyable form of fitness where the participants move to the rhythmic beats of music and people don’t find it as dull or monotonous as working out on an exercise machine.” Natya Aerobics is a new form of fitness where movements from various dance genres such as Bollywood, Indian Folk, Modern, Hip-hop, Yoga and Indian Classical Dance have been fused to create exciting and stimulating exercise routines that are suitable for people of all ages and abilities. “These dances are guaranteed to get feet tapping, body moving and heart racing. I conduct two Natya Aerobics classes a week in London. But there are DVDs available to purchase, and I have also uploaded a few routines on YouTube. It is important to do 30 minutes dancercise at least three to four times a week,” says Madhusudan who has been teaching Bharatanatyam for the past 21 years, and is also qualified as an Aerobics instructor and Yoga instructor in the UK.
Bhangra fitness is another popular form. “Music and dance is popular across all genders, age and regions. When we pair that with a calorie-torching workout, we get a firecracker session that has mass appeal. Also, when we do a dance fitness session, the collective energy of all the people in the class, and that of the energy, paired with unusual light effects give you a workout that feels like a party every single day. Don’t we all love partying with our friends? Plus, light effects, loud music and your squad, make you feel free to have your Beyoncé moment every single workout,” says Nupur Banerji, co-founder, director and head instructor at Zink Fitness Studio. She adds how at times, like on Baisakhi, she brings in live dhols too to add to the festive mood.
Dance fitness is primarily a form of cardiovascular exercise. The obvious benefit is the calorie burn during a class. “For anyone on a weight loss journey trying to maintain a caloric deficit to drop fat, increasing calorie expenditure is a crucial part of the puzzle. Dance fitness provides an alternative to tedious and repetitive exercises like walking on running on a treadmill, cross trainer etc. Other than this, dance fitness is excellent for mental health and stress relief. It is fun!” he says on the benefits. Madhusudan couldn’t agree more. “One can lose weight, which is very important in preventing heart diseases, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, etc. Along with physical benefits, dance also helps mental health and reduces the risks of dementia by improving coordination, concentration. Dance also increases cortisol levels in the body which improves emotional and psychological well-being,” says Madhusudan. Dance fitness sessions are way more interesting than a boring treadmill or tedious elliptical cycle.
“Reaching the end of a cardio session on a treadmill is an uphill task whereas at the end of the dance fitness session, you are left wondering where all those 60 minutes went! In every session, one can burn around 600-800 calories and not even realise the hard work that went into it,” says Banerji. Pole sport as it is called involves a lot of strength and flexibility. “And an hour or so helps fight insomnia and depression, releases happy hormones – adrenaline, endorphin, serotonin, dopamine when you master a trick or get an inversion right on the pole, and boosts self-confidence, self-esteem, awareness and body confidence. The focus increases manifold because you need to be focused on avoiding injuries, and do it well,” says Suri.
It is essential to include a warm-up as part of any exercise regimen before your start on the dance workout, as well as a cool down post workout. Suri has a yoga-based warm-up session before starting the pole sport. “Natya Aerobics is no exception, and there is a Warm Up routine as well as a Stretch and Tone routine included in the complete collection,” says Madhusudan.
Banerji, who did her certification for Masala Bhangra from the creator of Masala Bhangra, Sarina Jain, however, warns that anyone with knee/back injuries, post-surgery or post-pregnancy, even during the pregnancy needs to consult a doctor before beginning any workout programme and suggests aqua fitness formats for those with severe joint issues. Madhusudan advises, “One should always consult a doctor before embarking on any workout and always listen to your body; don’t push yourself to do more than what your body allows you to do.”