Dance workouts boost heart health
February is National Heart Health Awareness month, providing a good reminder that the No. 1 cause of death in the United States is heart disease, with stroke following closely at No. 4. Heart disease leads in San Antonio as well, with the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District’s Health Profiles 2012 attributing 2,487 deaths to heart-related diseases. It’s important to maintain physical fitness to help prevent heart disease and stroke and for other significant health benefits, and the New Year can be a great time to assess your fitness routine and consider adding something new. Aerobic activity can be anything that burns calories and gets you moving, including swimming, walking, hiking, jogging or biking. And while San Antonio offers plenty of good weather for getting outdoors, there are indoor activities that are increasingly popular exercise methods and workout trends. Consider Zumba® and Booty Barre® to dance it up and get a lift in the Alamo City. According to a study in Circulation: Heart Failure, people with cardiac conditions who danced for just 20 minutes three times a week saw their heart health improve significantly more than those who stuck to traditional cardio workouts.
Created from salsa and merengue in the 1990s by celebrity fitness trainer Beto Perez, Zumba® was launched in 2001 and is now practiced by 15 million people weekly in 200,000 locations spanning 180 countries. Monica Vera, owner of the newly opened Studio Get FIT! and a certified Zumba® instructor, says, “It’s FUN, it’s exciting, you feel the music and just keep moving. You don’t realize your are working out. You don’t have to worry about anyone in the room, [and you] don’t [have to] keep up with anyone, especially the instructors. At Studio Get FIT! it’s a club-like atmosphere with an exciting mix of music like Latin and hip-hop.”
Vera, who has trained as a dancer for 25 years, describes what to expect from the calorie-burning dance workout that combines low-intensity and high-intensity moves: “A typical class lasts 60 minutes and burns 200 to 1,000 calories. [You] work the core, the glutes, the entire body — especially your heart.”
Fitness enthusiast Katie Rivera, a certified Zumba® instructor who incorporates the dance program in her stay-fit routine, agrees. “I teach a Zumba® class once a week and take classes from other instructors to stay in shape. It is a great cardio workout, and combined with weight lifting, it really can transform your body. Zumba® keeps me in shape, but it is also a stress reliever,” she says. There are over 100 Zumba® classes of various formats in San Antonio. “Zumba Step® combines the fun and energy of Zumba’s upbeat rhythms with heart-pumping aerobic step exercises that will escalate your cardiovascular workout,” says Joy Prouty, director of education for Zumba®. “Our newest program is designed to give participants freedom to dance and maneuver while focusing on specific muscle groups like glutes, legs and thighs for a workout that really sculpts your body. But like all Zumba® programs, Zumba Step® is going to be more than a physical workout — it’s still going to transform your emotions and make you smile.”
Tracey Mallett, celebrity fitness trainer and lifestyle expert, created The Booty Barre®. “My objective was to bring intelligent exercise in a group format that was a true fusion of the influences in my life, which are Pilates, dance, yoga and athletics,” says Mallett. “In my opinion, all of these disciplines when practiced regularly bring a true balance to your body. However, as we know, time is limited, so my goal was to bring the best of all of them into a fun workout that creates balance in your life.”
In addition to giving you an enviable rear view, the program provides a combination of strength and flexibility with cardiovascular exercise to tone, define and chisel the whole body. “Booty Barre® is not just about the booty. It’s a total body workout that focuses first on the core because when the core is strong, the rest of the body follows suit. The major benefits are a more flexible body (as a strong body is also flexible), a toned core and a lifted booty. What can be better than that?” asks Mallett. Vera, a trained Booty Barre instructor, concurs: “It is a fat-burning, interval training, deep toning isometric conditioning. I believe what sets Booty Barre apart is that our program is more movement-based with controlled exercises derived from Pilates and dance. The motions aren’t difficult, but the slow movements and focus on proper form and squeeze are what make them so effective.”
Booty Barre® has trained over 500 Texas instructors, and the number is growing. While group Booty Barre® classes are offered locally, there are also many consumer DVDs ranging from novice to advanced to use at home. A studio setting isn’t needed, says Mallet — “You do not need a barre at home, just a chair.”