Linda Melone, CSCS
March 29, 2012
If your greatest workout fear is dying of boredom on a treadmill before you lose a pound of fat, join the club.
While I have nothing against using stationary exercise equipment, going nowhere fast on a treadmill or exercise bike defines monotony. In fact, following any regimen day after day can sap your enthusiasm for exercise. Plus (because muscles adapt to routine), it stalls progress.
When the alarm clock goes off, you have to decide between another hour of sleep or on hour on a stair-climber. Often willpower isn't enough to drag yourself out of bed. And after a long day at the office, an evening vegging in front of the TV certainly sounds better than twenty laps around the high school track.
Surely, there's a way to mix up your workout routine that will actually inspire you? I'm happy to report that yes, there is...
Dancing With the Stars has popularized dancing as a fun and effective way to lose weight. Kirstie Alley, Rickie Lake and even Nancy Grace have all talked about the weight they've lost by appearing on the show. Granted, the participants train rigorously for hours a day, but even a bad version of the Tango beats the monotony of a stair-climber or treadmill.
Making exercise fun is key. If you're moving and not counting reps or torturous minutes, you're more likely to stick with it.
The good news: You don't need to be a star or master the complex moves of the DWTS dances (Charleston, Paso Doble, Mambo, etc.) to reap the weight loss benefits of dance.
Easy Does It
The American Council on Exercise cautions against doing too much too soon. Dancing... contestants are known as much for their injuries as they are for their dancing prowess. Even with guidance from the best trainers Hollywood can buy, strained muscles, torn Achilles tendons and separated shoulders have sidelined contestants. The reason: dancing is a serious sport. Many contestants sign on to the contest in poor shape and immediately begin training for hours a day—something any fitness expert would advise against. Your body simply does not have adequate time to adapt and ease into a routine.
Unlike the stars, you don't have to meet a production schedule or air date, so you can take a smarter approach. You may be young at heart, but if the last time you busted a move was at your high school prom, don't expect your body to move and bend like a teenager.
Whether you decide to take a class or follow a do-it-yourself DVD, be sure to warm up for at least five to ten minutes. A dance DVD or class instructor will likely take you through some light, modified dance moves to warm muscles. If you're on your own, walk around the room or jog in place for a few minutes before you begin. Also, take five minutes or so to cool down and stretch after your workout, as you would with any exercise program.
Ballroom dancing, salsa and the tango all raise heart rate, torch calories and improve cardiovascular fitness as effectively as many other types of cardio exercise, according to the American College of Sports Medicine. ACSM classifies dancing as being an activity within their recommendation for 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise five days a week. Bottom line: you'll meet your exercise requirements, burn approximately 350 calories an hour, and you'll have fun in the process. Now, that's a good reason to get out of bed in the morning!
Linda Melone, CSCS
Linda is an NSCA-Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and holds additional certifications from the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the American Council on Exercise (ACE). Her work regularly appears in print and online publications including WebMD, MSN Health, AOL, Better Homes & Gardens, Clean Eating, Oxygen, Self, Glamour, Prevention, Bicycling, and many others.