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Fitness step-by-step

Can you dance your way to health?

Dancing for healthHow is your workout routine going? Oh. You don’t have one but you’ve been thinking seriously about getting one? Please don’t hate me. Every second day for 13 years I have gone to the gym. I warm up with something called an adaptive motion trainer before hitting the circuit of weight machines.

Although I add new tunes to my iPod for this workout, it gets boring. That’s why it’s called a routine. Sometimes I hear music from the adjoining studio, occasional laughter and clapping. Should I be mixing it up with some of this? To find out what all the fun is about I ask Krista Enderud, fitness programmer at the Oak Bay municipal recreation centre in Victoria, B.C.

Mix up your fitness routine

“Until this spring we offered noon-hour total body conditioning classes which had six or eight people in them,” she says. “Then, due to demand, the classes became Dance Fitness and Dance Strength. That really upped the fun and appeal. Now attendance has doubled. Even the staff goes at lunchtime to de-stress.” Enderud adds that dance fitness can be a wonderful intro to getting active as well as adding variety for those who are already engaged in a fitness regime.

Get in the groove

Dance fitness, so that’s what I’m missing. Across Canada, dance academies, universities, yoga studios and fitness facilities now offer some kind of dance exercise experience. Zumba, Jazzercise, Bollycore, Ginga, DanceX, World Dance Fitness, Beachbody Dance Workout, Bellyfit and Nia are led by franchise-trained instructors. In New Westminster, B.C., there are aerial classes. Strut parties are classes that offer burlesque, chair and lap fitness. My mind wanders … but back to dance.

One way to make a decision is to listen to the language used to promote each system. Do I want exhilarating, body energizing, calorie-burning, awe-inspiring, high-def movements and red-hot rhythms? Or do I crave pleasure, not pain, the joy of movement; relationship with sensation, flow, healing, and community?

Deborah Redfern, a Nia instructor in Victoria says there are no wimps in a Nia class. “But it is movement as opposed to exercise,” she adds. “This is the only program that hasn’t made my injuries worse.”

Developed in 1981 and now taught in 37 countries, Nia is done barefoot to a fusion of eclectic music. It claims to help heal old injuries and encourage emotional release through building an energy field and a community in class.

Non-competitive and inclusive

Similar words come up with Bellyfit, a holistic fitness system designed for the female body, spirit and mind. Founder Alice Bracegirdle uses DJ-mixed ethno-electronica in a one-hour workout, which she also sells in a set of five DVDs. It blends belly dancing, yoga, Pilates, cardio, Bollywood and African dance and movement. “We encourage women to listen to their own body and move in a way that feels comfortable. We are noncompetitive and inclusive,” she says.

Make room for martial arts

In the high-intensity, designed-to-ripyou- into-shape segment of this growing dance movement trend, the newest program is Ontario’s Ginga Fitness. Created five years ago by Toronto native Ken Homer, Ginga is based on Capoeira, a 400-year-old Brazilian martial art. “You never plateau with this dance which includes lunges, kicks, punches and squats, using your own body as a weight,” says Homer. “The better you get, the more you benefit. I recommend four classes a week and 70 per cent of my students lose weight and tone up.”

Feel the music

One of the biggest players in this feel-the-music market is Zumba, a 150-country franchise based in Florida. Talk about brand-extension: there are nine kinds of classes. Zumba Gold and Zumba Gold Toning look good to me as they move more slowly and reduce the volume of the music for newbies and older active adults. Like Ginga, the music is Latin salsa and world beats.

I ask Celine Hall, owner of WZ Latin Party Fitness in Victoria, about injuries. “We tell people to move at their own pace and stretch after every class. If they have preexisting injures they are shown how to modify the steps. Zumba is less structured: it’s for everybody.”

Ancient rituals or modern technology, I’m tempted to supplement my gym-going with something different. ◊