You want to drop a few pounds, and you know exercise is an important part of that process. But if you're just starting out, you probably want to know: What's the best exercise to lose weight?
It turns out that cutting a rug can help you cut down the number on the scale. Indeed, a new report from the World Health Organization (WHO) found that dancing can be even more effective than other types of exercise when it comes to decreasing body fat.
Why Dancing Is So Great for Beginners
That might have something to do with the full-body component of dancing. Since dancing engages your entire body, it helps you build muscle mass overall, says Joanie Johnson, a former professional dancer, certified personal trainer and postnatal corrective exercise specialist. That's key for weight loss because muscle burns more calories than fat. And dropping pounds is all about torching more calories than you consume, explains Nedra Lopez Matosov, trainer and owner of the New York City-based fitness studio The P.E. Club.
And there's more good news. In addition to weight loss and fat-burning, a bit of boogie also boasts other health benefits: It can improve your body composition (think: a healthier body mass index) and musculoskeletal function (better balance), as well as your cholesterol, triglycerides and markers of oxidative stress, per the WHO report.
What's more, when you bust a move, you also boost your self-esteem, body image and confidence about your ability to exercise.
Ready to strap on your dancing shoes and shimmy your way to a healthier you? Whether you're an exercise newbie or an avid gym-goer, these six tips from Lopez Matosov and Johnson will help you get started incorporating dance into your fitness routine quicker than you can say, "a five, six, seven, eight!"
1. Start Slowly
"If you go from never dancing or doing cardio to suddenly doing high-intensity, high-impact moves, the odds of an injury are extremely high," says Lopez Matosov. "So, start slow, warm up, wear proper shoes and do modifications if needed."
And don't get frustrated if you can't master the moves or keep the pace. "You're going to have to push yourself to keep up and might not get all the steps right away, but that's OK," says Lopez Matosov, adding, "The first time you do anything new, expect to be challenged. Most importantly, be nice to yourself."
2. Hop Around at Home
"Dance doesn't always have to be about taking a structured class," says Johnson. "The easiest and cheapest way to get started is to put on your favorite playlist and dance at home." This way, you can let loose and dance like no one's watching (literally). "There's no pressure to make any of the moves look good and no one cares if you decide to bop to your own beat," she adds.
This is a great alternative for people who prefer to prance around their living rooms in private, especially if you're a beginner who's looking to build a little confidence. And, since you can wiggle your waist anywhere and anytime, you can sneak in a quick session whenever it suits you. In the morning, turn up the tunes and boogie while you prepare breakfast; at night, shimmy before you hit the shower.
The best part? A 20-minute dance break not only crushes calories but also does wonders for clearing your head and relieving stress, says Johnson.
3. Get Down With a Group Class
If you're the type who needs a little motivation to get moving, a group class may be your solution. In a group, the high-energy, heart-pumping adrenaline of your classmates can help to push you, says Lopez Matosov.
Johnson agrees: "Most people tend to work harder if they are being held accountable in a group class setting." Plus, a sense of camaraderie kicks in as you and your fellow dancers work on mastering a combo together.
Not to mention, you also have the benefit of a skilled instructor who can offer modifications and make sure you're performing the moves correctly to avoid injury.
4. Try Tango and Tap
New to dance? If you're a beginner, start with the style that seems like the most fun to you, suggests Johnson. Dancing should be enjoyable, so explore as many styles as you need to find the right fit. Not a jazz junkie? No worries. Sample a salsa class, try the tango or groove to hip-hop.
Even once you've found your go-to dance style, learning sequences of steps and choreography can still be challenging. At times, you might feel like you have two left feet. But don't let a few hang-ups be the reason you hang up your dancing shoes. "Mess-ups happen! It's part of the process," says Johnson. So, don't take yourself too seriously.
5. Boogie With a Buddy
Most people don't love to log lots of cardio, says Lopez Matosov, who suggests upping a fitness activity's fun factor to increase your motivation to move. One way to do that? Dance in a duo. Why not ask your bestie to join you for a ballet class. You'll laugh your way through leaps and applaud each other's pirouettes.
Plus, inviting a friend to foxtrot with you will increase your chances of showing up in the first place. "If you sign up for a class and you know you're meeting a friend there, you're less likely to talk yourself out of going," says Johnson.
6. Bust a Move in Moderation
Crazy about cutting a rug? Just be sure you're not overdoing it. Even too much of a good thing can be bad, says Lopez Matosov. "Because dance can be high impact and high intensity, I would aim for no more than three times per week to give your body a chance to recover." This falls in line with the American Heart Association's recommendations, which suggest you do vigorous aerobic activity three days a week for a minimum of 25 minutes per session.
"Also, make sure you incorporate strength training to ensure that the muscles around your knees, hips and back are strong enough to support your joints through all the pounding when you dance," adds Lopez Matosov.