Dance your way to wellness

There are many ways to stay fit and it is important to choose a fitness plan that works with your schedule and your interests.

For me, no fitness plan really “stuck” until I found Jazzercise, a high-intensity aerobic dance program that combines popular music with cardio-pumping dance moves. What I love about Jazzercise is that it is always fresh (new moves and new music keep it interesting) and accessible. I did not come from a dance background but Jazzercise works for people of all backgrounds and fitness levels.

Now, I teach Jazzercise and will be offering a class in the fall to Middlebury faculty and staff. For more information on how to participate, you can check out the sign-up form here

If you are still looking for the right fitness program for you, consider a dance-based program. It doesn’t have to be Jazzercise, just something that will keep you motivated and help you have fun while you are working out. Here are some things to look for in a dance-based fitness program:

Cardio: Look for a program that works at various levels of intensity, so that you maximize your calorie-burn and fat-burn. An effective dance program should help you to reach target heart rates and should include warm-up and cool-down portions. This isn’t just about style, the dance moves should link to target heart rates— higher intensity power moves for working at the top of a safe heart rate zone, and more dance-y stylized moves for toning in target body areas. Ask the instructor how the program is designed to do that, so that you can work effectively throughout any class.

Core: Okay, so the real word here is “strength training” but I wanted a nice list of C’s, so there you go. Besides burning calories and fat with cardio, you also need to tone and strengthen muscles, especially around your core. A good dance-based fitness program will involve strength training, often with weights, balls, bands, or using resistance from your own body, strengthening core (and other) muscles to help with posture and toning. Many people are afraid that strength training will cause them to gain weight—and yes, muscle weighs more than fat—but strength training is an essential part of getting to a more toned figure.

Cuing: Dancing is more fun when you know what you are doing. Look for a dance class in which the instructor provides ample and timely cues during the routines. Good cuing will help the class to be seamless and enjoyable for all, and in particular, will help new students learn the routines more quickly.

Consistency: One thing that attracted me to Jazzercise is how well designed the program is. As someone with a background in instructional design, I respect programs that are well designed and consistent because they support participants with diverse backgrounds. With Jazzercise, songs have choreography that has been carefully assembled to help instructors put together effective classes. No matter where you take a Jazzercise class, you will notice consistency in the choreography and class designs.

Community: Friends who dance together, stay together. I’m only half kidding when I say this. My favorite thing about Jazzercise, and I’m sure this applies in other programs, is the community of men and women of all ages and fitness levels who come together to dance. Some of my best friends are from Jazzercise classes. We sweat and dance together, yes, but we also share our lives together, and the peaks and valleys of our daily experiences. Find a dance program that values community, and you’ll stay engaged with it much longer than with another program.

Remember, you can check out Jazzercise Dance Mixx classes at Middlebury this fall, Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4:30 – 5:30pm in the 3rd floor studio in the fitness center. Hope to dance with you all soon!

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