3:38 PM EDT, October 5, 2011
It's not often that the words "exercise" and "fun" appear in the same sentence.
But here you go: "For people who hate to exercise, it's a fun way of getting into shape." That's Roger Dillahunty, and he's talking about dancing.
Dillahunty has been a dancer for 35 years and teaches an array of classes at the Berkeley Performing Arts Center in Berkeley, Calif. (theberkeleyperformingarts.org), where he's executive director.
"Exercise shouldn't be something that's labored," he contends. So what if most of us think exercise is a four-letter word: w-o-r-k?
It doesn't have to be, Dillahunty insists. "When you have five or six or 25 people in the same room with the same goal in mind. … Once you see people sweating and having fun because they're working out to really wonderful music? I think that's the hook." The hook, that is, that will get us off our seats and moving — the first critical steps to getting fit.
Don't think you can dance? You're wrong. Think it's just for people who took lessons when they were kids? Think again. You need a partner to take a class? Nope.
"There's a whole lot of different styles and forms," he says. Zumba, a Latin-inspired dance-fitness program, is increasingly popular. And there are many other classes infused with jazz, samba, salsa, country music, disco, zydeco, hip-hop, even tap. All can improve your heart, burn calories, build muscles and increase flexibility.
Getting started is the hard part, but the payoff is quick, says Dillahunty, who speaks from personal experience.
"I'm coming back from a surgery that didn't allow me to dance for more than eight months," he says.
"I know what's it like when you can't even touch your toes. I'm starting from scratch but I already see huge improvements."
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