You can dance off the pounds

Special to The Times

I have been watching a few of these dance shows on television and have been inspired by the contestants’ physiques, weight-loss stories and energy. Is dancing really a good way to get into shape? It looks like fun, but is it good exercise?


San Diego

Done regularly, yes, dancing can be a great form of exercise. It burns calories, improves coordination, builds stamina and, most important, it’s fun. Besides that, dancing is also less likely to get boring than some other activities because there are always new steps to learn and the music is motivating.


Here are some tips to help you get started and make dancing a smart part of your workout program:

* Most YMCAs, health clubs and community centers offer some type of dance exercise program or class. Sample a few types of classes and instructors until you find your favorite style, music and teacher. Classes with a start and end date are best if you want to be at a similar level with the other students, but they may include some type of fee. Classes that are ongoing may require a few weeks of catch-up but are often included in the club or facility membership.

* Don’t expect to be a pro in your first session. Part of the fun is learning new steps and being challenged to move your body in new, and possibly unfamiliar, ways. Go into each class with the frame of mind that you are improving your health and having fun, not competing to win a dance contest or be the best in the room.

* Some classes are geared around couples’ dancing, such as ballroom. These classes provide a perfect opportunity for you to enjoy the experience with your boyfriend, girlfriend or spouse. If you don’t have anyone to take the class with you, don’t worry. Many of these types of classes will set you up with a different partner each week -- a great way to meet new people.

* You will likely find your own favorite style of dancing, but don’t forget to mix it up. A ballet class is going to work your body differently than a hip-hop, Irish or African dance class, and switching it up is the best way to get health benefits while reducing your risk of injury from overusing the same muscle groups.

* Some dance classes will focus on building muscle endurance and strength, but dancing is mostly cardiovascular. So include additional strength training in your week so that your muscles get strong as well.


Jay Blahnik, a Laguna Beach-based personal trainer and IDEA Health & Fitness Assn. spokesman, has appeared in more than 25 videos and is the author of “Full-Body Flexibility.” He can be reached at jay@jayblahnik .com or