11 February 2014

Hip-hop your way to fitness

You don’t need to be super-slick or ultra-trim to be able to dance. You just need to be ready and willing. After a few sessions the steps will start coming automatically – and so will the fitness rewards.

You don’t need to be super-slick or ultra-trim to be able to dance. You just need to be ready and willing. After a few sessions the steps will start coming automatically – and so will the fitness rewards.

Health benefits of dancing


Dancing helps you stand tall and it spontaneously pulls your spine up straight. Walking upright eventually becomes a habit.


This is essential when you’re performing dance moves.


A good hour-long dance session can push your heart rate up to 120 beats per minute – the same as aerobic exercise. You’ll burn more or less the same amount of kilojoules when you walk briskly for 5km.


The exertion dance demands of your muscles helps to tone your arms and legs. Over time you’ll see your upper arms, calves and thighs firm up. 


Graceful dance moves keep bones strong without putting unnecessary strain on the joints. Dance promotes bone density and therefore helps to prevent osteoporosis.


Dancing for or with people boosts self-confidence. Few of us wouldn’t be proud of performing a faultless tango!

Body and soul

Many studies have investigated the therapeutic and meditative effects of dance on the body. According to psychologist Dr Melléta Louw, “The combination of music and movement brings your body and soul together in a world that often puts too much emphasis on the external world.”

The style: Hip-hop dance is a street dance style, generally performed to hip-hop music which originated in The Bronx in 1970s. It started as part of the hip-hop culture and includes styles like “breaking”, ”locking”, and “popping”. Hip-hop was given a lot of exposure on television and films during the seventies and eighties and is performed outdoors and indoors. There is a lot of improvising which is called “free style”.   

You don't have to be draped in bling or be a big rap fan to try hip-hop. It's a style of street dance that doesn't actually have to be done to the beat of hip-hop music. In fact, dance studios offer hip-hop classes in a variety of modes, from break-dancing to more choreographed versions you see in music videos.

The challenge factor: It's actually astonishingly easy. “The basic movements are easy to learn and the style follows naturally,” says hip-hop and ballroom dance coach Elise Krog. The nicest thing about it is the scope you have for improvisation and interpretation.

Why it's good for you: You exercise all the muscles in your body, particularly the legs, and the exercise you get is intensive because the pace is so fast. One hour of hip-hop amounts to about the same as an hour's high-intensity cardiovascular exercise like a spinning class.

If you're a fan of hip-hop music you'll also be swept away – the beat is relaxing and the physical exertion releases feel-good endorphins in the brain, which help to relieve stress.

Celebrity hip-hoppers: Usher, Jessica Alba, Missy Elliot, Justin Timberlake and Julia Stiles.

REMEMBER: Check your dance teacher's qualifications. Also make sure you tell him or her if you have any injuries or health problems so your dance moves can be adapted appropriately. And listen to your body – take a break when you're tired and don't try to force yourself into positions you're not used to.

Picture: Hip-hop dancing from Shutterstock

Read more:

Hip Hop dancing: Becoming a B-Girl

Workouts to music most effective


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