Archive for Friday, January 24, 2003

Giving Exercise A Cultural Spin

January 24, 2003


It's Friday night and the music with the pulsing Latin beat isn't coming from the local nightclub. It's coming from the local health club. That's right, the latest craze to sweep the health club circuit is exercising to an ethnic beat.

With the country's population continuing to diversify, fitness instructors are bringing their cultures to the job:

  • In Florida, classic belly dancing (belly rolls, body waves and snake arms) makes for excellent low-impact aerobics, while Turkish belly dancing, with its jumping and fast moves, makes for excellent high-impact aerobics.
  • In Chicago, live drummers provide a Latin beat in one class, while in another you do aerobics to a hip-hop beat.
  • In New York, you do a dance called Masala Bhangra. It is a hip-swiveling, foot-stomping, hand clapping workout done to the beat of flutes, drums and synthesized music.

There is also contra dancing, a Brazilian, Afro-Caribbean yoga dance, which mixes traditional yoga postures from India with dance moves to the rhythm of world music.

Experts point out that every 15 years or so the fitness industry needs to reinvent itself. Nobody wants to be working out like their mothers did. And dancing has great health benefits--you burn calories, keep joints limber and tone muscles (including your heart). Dancing is something that people of all ages and fitness levels can do.

Variety might have something to do with the current exercise trend. You don't have a bunch of high impact dances in a row and the type of music changes. In addition, the songs don't last more than 15 minutes, so there is a natural break in the movement. This also keeps people from getting bored.

While it does not involve dancing, another cultural form of exercise on the rise is martial arts, which is going more mainstream. Boxing aerobics, kickboxing or cardio-kickboxing is offered at nearly 80% of the health clubs nationwide. Cardio-kickboxing is a hybrid of boxing, martial arts and aerobic dance. It is a high-energy, aggressive workout without the boredom of other workouts. Before starting this workout, it is advisable to get some basic training. This will help you avoid injuries.

These new exercises are about as far removed from the exercises of the '70s as you can get. Dancing gets your heart rate up and allows you to use your mind as well as your body for a better workout. So next time you want to move to that Latin beat, don't go to a nightclub, go to an exercise studio.

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