Lose yourself to dance: Why rhythm-based workouts like Zumba may be one of the most effective ways to lose weight

According to one study, people who do Zumba can burn more than 9 kilocalories every minute and go up to 60% of VO2Max during the workout.

Myupchar September 26, 2019 07:00:57 IST
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Lose yourself to dance: Why rhythm-based workouts like Zumba may be one of the most effective ways to lose weight
  • Since the original "fitness-party", as Zumba is also known, there's been incredible growth in the number of workouts that draw on dance styles

  • According to one study, people who do Zumba can burn more than 9 kilocalories every minute and go up to 60% of VO2Max during the workout

  • With twists, quick-turns, jumps, change of pace, dancing forces us to sweat the smallest muscles - these are important for maintaining balance

Around 33 years ago, an aerobics instructor in Cali, Columbia, got to the workout studio and realised he’d forgotten his music at home. In desperation, he pulled out the only other music he had in his backpack: Latin music. With moves adapted from salsa, merengue, cumbia and samba, he completed the class to rave reviews. He'd just created Zumba.

Zumba travelled to the US at the turn of the 21st century, and then to the rest of the world soon after.

Lose yourself to dance Why rhythmbased workouts like Zumba may be one of the most effective ways to lose weight

Representational image. Image source: Getty Images.

Since the original “fitness-party”, as Zumba is also known, there’s been incredible growth in the number of workouts that draw on dance styles. From Bollywood dancing to Soul line dancing, there’s a whole range of rhythm-based workouts to choose from. There’s also growing research on the science behind dance workouts.

“Dance is the most fundamental of the arts involving direct expression through the use of body movements and expressions. As such it is a powerful form of therapy,” wrote Patricia T. Alpert of the University of Nevada, US, in the journal Home Health Care & Practice, in 2010. “But it wasn’t until the 21st century that creative art therapies such as dance evolved as a form of complementary medicine for both psychological and physical illnesses,” she added.

Soul line dancing involves moving to Soul music which evolved in the U.S. in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s and includes elements of the Blues and R&B.

Here’s a quick look at why it’s a good idea to put on your dancing shoes:

Endurance

You’ve probably heard of VO2Max: the maximum amount of oxygen your body can use during a workout. The greater your VO2Max, the more calories you can burn for energy and the longer you can carry on exercising without getting tired.

According to one study, people who do Zumba can burn more than 9 kilocalories every minute and go up to 60% of VO2Max during the workout - exercising at 40-85% of VO2 Max can improve cardiovascular health, the study added.

Cardio workouts from running to cycling and step aerobics can all increase your VO2 max over time. But dance workouts have an added advantage: the rising and falling tempo of the music gives you moments to catch your breath in-between bursts of intense activity.

Balance, flexibility and coordination

Try standing on one foot. Now, try closing your eyes. Can you feel your ankles wobbling? This is because we often overlook areas like the ankle in our workouts. With twists, quick-turns, jumps, change of pace, dancing forces us to sweat the smallest muscles - these are important for maintaining balance.

Coordination and rhythm are also key benefits of a dance workout. Increasingly, sports instructors are looking at dance training and vice-versa to improve performance through better rhythm and strength.

“Because dance training involves the memorization and constant repetition of precise steps, it can also help athletes become more coordinated,” wrote Dan Ketchum in SportsRec, a fitness magazine. “More than that, dance classes that focus on group routines can sharpen spatial awareness, which is crucial to sports that require athletes to track a tiny ball across a playing field that's dozens of yards long,” he added.

Some dance forms — like Soul line dancing — can be quite gentle. They can help older people and those living with lifestyle diseases get started on their journey towards fitness.

Mental acuity

While it's okay to make plenty of mistakes during a dance routine, it can be quite rewarding to try and learn a new(ish) dance workout sequence in every class. It keeps the mind active even as it works out the body.

Research shows that dancing can affect the parts of the brain that control memory and skills such as planning. Naturally, some dance forms — say, tap dancing — are trickier to remember (and therefore better exercise for the brain) than others.

According to a study done with people aged 65-75, a 40-minute dance routine that combines simple movements into a long sequence can improve brain function in the elderly. The researchers added that the sudden movement changes can also improve alertness and responsiveness.

Dance also has positive outcomes for learning among young children. In "Dancing through the school day: How dance catapults learning in elementary education", an article published in the Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance in 2013, researcher K.M. Becker argued that dance is just a set of simple movements joined gracefully together. She wrote that it's important for teachers to incorporate movement by asking students to perform their action verbs, for example. This can help the children to learn concepts faster, and retain information better.

Finally, the next time you get a chance, observe how babies move to a song that they like. Even when they can’t balance, they’re happy to try new moves that challenge them. When we dance, we let go of some of our inhibitions. And when we stop being self-conscious, we can push our bodies to do more.

Health articles in Firstpost are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health. For similar articles on fitness, please visit Fitness: Benefits, Components and Types.

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