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Dance Fitness Classes Are The Workout Everyone Needs Right Now

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Amidst the buffet of at-home workouts at your fingertips right now a very specific trend has emerged (or reemerged, depending on who you ask): dance fitness classes. While not a new concept in the least —remember Jazzercize and Zumba?— the way in which this fitness form is being presented is fresh in that it's designed to meet both physical and emotional needs. Indeed, nothing makes you sweat like an old-fashioned dance party, but the release can also extend to the soul and mind, say fitness pros.

"There's something about dance," says actor, professional dancer, and founder of dance fitness program KINRGY Julianne Hough to The Zoe Report. "Exercise is really the best thing you can do for the brain because it helps build new connectors within your hippocampus, which is where you create and store memory [...] The more you express yourself when you work out or move your body, the more you're actually shifting your brain."

In fact, Hough says her own realization of the mental and emotional impact of dance inspired her to create KINRGY in August 2019. "This expression part really hit me," say the dancer. "We need to find a way where you don't have to go to multiple studios for a yoga class, breathe-work, meditation class, or dance class. How can I create something that's a 'whole self' experience?" The answer came in the form of a program that Hough describes as a "therapy session/dance class/meditation. It's for your entire being."

To be clear, KINRGY's dance method is not a choreographed routine to master in 45 minutes. Think free-flowing exaggerated arm waving, lunges, and hip swinging mixed with traditional yoga moves and the occasional planking. Hough says the format includes "moves designed for a human that we've been doing for thousands of years," combined with a current playlist that keeps things modern and up-to-date.

And while Hough recognizes KINRGY is just one of a slew of dance fitness methods popping up in the past couple years, she's unfazed by competition. In fact, she says the more the merrier. "I'm grateful there's so many dance things out there right now," says the entrepreneur. "Even with TikTok, the things that have been helping people get through this [COVID-19 crisis] are these incredible dances. Dance really is so healing and connecting of yourself and the collective. There really is room for everyone."

Dance and fitness instructor LaShawn Jones says she thinks dance fitness has actually been a thing for years, it's just becoming a bit more of a mixed bag in terms of options. "I do think that other dance fitness formats have been released more recently providing greater options so perhaps that could be seen as a resurgence," says Jones to TZR. "In terms of picking up steam, I’m a little biased, but what is better than dancing as a way of working out? Especially when you weave in some good music, fun moves and make it accessible to learn via repetition. Ding, ding…you have a winner!"

For her sessions, Jones says she likes to incorporate a sequence of movements for each song that are different and repetitive. "This allows for variety and also the opportunity for the client to learn the movement as it will be performed more than once in each song," says Jones. "The class is primarily cardio while there are some strength exercises incorporated. You will definitely catch some squats and standing ab work in my classes. I also usually try to have a portion of the cool down include freestyle movement. Turn on a feel good song and allow clients to just dance freely without having to focus on following choreography. Such a fun way to end class."

Within the dance fitness space, a micro-trend has also emerged that includes more choreographed sequences, allowing attendees to experience an authentic dance class, no matter their skillset or training levels. Offering nine different styles, from dancehall and jazz funk to house and hip-hop, online dance platform STEEZY Studio's tutorials target all skill levels, so you don't have to be an advanced dancer to pick up each movement, which are designed by veteran choreographers.

"Each class is broken down into easy-to-learn sections with custom features that give the dancer full control of their learning experience," says STEEZY co-founders Evan Zhou and Connor Lim, who serve (respectively) as the company's CEO and President. "You can play any part of the class on loop while you drill and practice, open your webcam to use it as a virtual mirror, adjust the tempo to whatever pace is most comfortable to you, and more."

The combined virtual and customization aspects allow for a less-intimidating and judgement-free session, says STEEZY instructor David Lee to TZR. "It can be quite intimidating walking into a class filled with strangers but take a chance on it before you decide that it’s not for you," advises Lee. STEEZY helps since it’s online and you can do it in the safety of your home. Being great at anything takes time so commit to what you can, even if it’s just once a week! I’d also recommend that you try different types of classes, choreographers, and styles to find what fits you the best. What matters most is that you enjoy what you are doing."

Studies referenced:

Brinke, L. F., Bolandzadeh, N., Nagamatsu, L. S., Hsu, C. L., Davis, J. C., Miran-Khan, K., & Liu-Ambrose, T. (2014). Aerobic exercise increases hippocampal volume in older women with probable mild cognitive impairment: a 6-month randomised controlled trial. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 49(4), 248–254. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2013-093184

Verghese , J., Lipton, R. B., Katz, M. J., Hall , C. B., Derby, C. A., Kuslansky,, G., … Buschke, H. (2003, June 19). Leisure Activities and the Risk of Dementia in the Elderly. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12815136/