Should You Try Dance Fitness?

Women practicing dance fitness
Table of Contents
View All
Table of Contents

Fitness enthusiasts have been burning up the dance floor for years, rockin' off the calories to the sound of heart-pumping tunes and easy-to-master moves. Dance fitness instructors constantly adapt their choreography and develop new classes inspired by styles ranging from hip-hop and Latin dance to ballroom and ballet.

One of the best things about dance fitness classes is that they're accessible to almost all fitness levels. They also provide an easy and fun way for people to get active with a wide variety of offerings.

What Is Dance Fitness?

Dance fitness stands out from technical or traditional dance in that technique and intricate choreography aren't the main focus. Participants don't spend months perfecting a routine in anticipation of a show or recital; rather, they show up, work up a sweat while doing their best to follow an instructor, and leave feeling good about their workout.

Cardio-Based Dance Fitness

Many dance fitness classes have a focus on cardiovascular exercise. Instructors plan easy-to-follow choreography that keeps participants moving in an effort to raise their heart rates. Styles like Zumba, Jazzercise, LaBlast, Hip Hop Abs, TurboJam, and Bokwa all fall into this category.

Slower-Paced Dance Fitness

Some classes focus on different elements of physical fitness. For instance, barre classes work to improve balance, coordination, core strength, and flexibility while also enhancing the strength of smaller, stabilizing muscles.

Likewise, pole dancing helps improve flexibility and dance styles that meld dance with yoga or martial arts (like Yoga Trance Dance or Nia) bring a mind-body element to dance-focused workouts.

If you like to dance and you're looking for a fun way to enhance your physical fitness, there's bound to be a dance-based option that's right for you.

Suitable for All Levels

Most dance fitness classes are appropriate for all levels unless otherwise noted. Most are also low-impact. Because participants don't have to worry about running, jumping, or other high-intensity, high-impact exercises, classes are less likely to cause injury or lead to excessive soreness.

Plus, the choreography is easily modifiable. To make the moves less challenging, make them smaller. Or intensify a workout by adding steps and exaggerating your movements. Most classes are friendly for all fitness levels.

That said, some forms of dance—particularly specialized classes, such as pole fitness and barre classes—do offer varying skill levels and intensities. Ask your gym or studio if there are class levels you should consider before attending.

Aside from people with major injuries or health issues, most can comfortably join dance fitness classes and feel good about the experience. Consult with your doctor before starting an exercise program if you have any concerns.

Styles of Dance Fitness

It's a good idea to familiarize yourself with the different styles of dance workouts before trying them out. Some classes are more adventurous (or even risqué) than others—and purposely so.

Cardio Dance

These classes may include hip-swaying and chest pops, but their pace is fast and their intent is to make you break a sweat. Cardio dance classes are often based on certain styles or forms of dance.

For instance, Zumba is based loosely on Latin dance, Bokwa on African dance, Doonya on Bollywood dance, LaBlast on ballroom dance, Jazzercise on jazz dance, Kerboomka on club-style dance, and Broadway Bodies on Broadway dance.

You may find that you prefer one form or another. Though, all of them are designed to help improve your cardiovascular fitness.

Barre Workouts 

Barre workouts are ballet-inspired routines that incorporate elements of yoga, Pilates, and strength training with light weights. Posture and proper form are a primary focus as instructors lead students through moves that challenge balance, stability, and core strength.

You'll find high repetitions, small isolating "pulses," and slow movements in barre classes. The workouts are generally low-impact and moderate-intensity.

Where barre really shines is in its focus on muscle strength and toning, making it an excellent cross-training option for runners, cyclists, and heavy lifters. Popular barre workouts include Physique 57, Barre3, The Bar Method, Pop Physique, and Pure Barre.

Mind-Body Dance

Mind-body dance typically incorporates elements of yoga, tai chi, or martial arts into a flowing routine. These workouts offer combined benefits ranging from improved cardiovascular health to enhanced flexibility and reduced stress.

Classes are typically low-impact and low-to-moderate in intensity, perfect for beginners looking for a way to ease into exercise. Prime examples include Nia and Yoga Trance Dance.

Sensual Dance

Sensual dance classes are a little more sexual and include everything from belly dancing to pole dancing. Options such as burlesque-style or striptease classes tend to have a stronger focus on raising your heart rate, while pole and aerial classes focus on total body strength and flexibility.

Combining Dance Fitness With Other Workouts

There are five components of fitness: muscular strength, muscular endurance, cardiovascular endurance, flexibility, and body composition. Since most dance classes aren't equipped to target all of these, it's a good idea to supplement your preferred workout with cross-training routines.

  • Cardio-focused dance classes like Zumba can be combined with strength training and stretching to work on muscular strength and flexibility.
  • Flexibility and muscular endurance classes like barre can be combined with kickboxing or boot camps to improve cardiovascular endurance and muscular strength.

What to Know Before You Go

If you're new to dance fitness and interested in trying a class, there are a few things to keep in mind so that you're prepared.

Research the Instructor

Some fitness instructors are better than others. One may provide better feedback, model better form, or have better class-management skills. Others may be better qualified, boasting more certifications and greater experience.

Do your research on instructors (most gyms and studios offer bios for their coaches). Then, take the time to try a few classes. Your best experience with dance will come when you fall in love with the workout and the instructor.

Wear Appropriate Attire

To participate in most dance fitness classes, all you need is comfortable athletic clothes and a pair of athletic shoes. That said, it's important to ask about studio-specific rules and guidelines about apparel and gear.

For instance, most barre studios require participants to go barefoot during class or to bring a pair of studio socks with special grips on the soles. Similarly, pole classes suggest participants wear short, tight-fitting shorts and ask that dancers avoid applying lotion before class since bare skin is better for gripping the pole.

Are Online Dance Fitness Classes Effective?

Home-based workouts are a great option if money or time are barriers. Studio classes can be pricey and they may not always work with your schedule. The good news is that online workout platforms and DVDs are excellent options for incorporating dance fitness at home.

There are a few noticeable limitations, such as most people not having ballet barres or poles at their houses. But if you're looking for a straightforward cardio dance class or a barre routine that uses a chair in place of the barre, there are lots of high-quality options available.

A Word From Verywell

It's not unusual for new exercisers to feel awkward when trying dance fitness classes for the first time. Even "easy" choreography can be tricky to pick up if you're not used to doing it. Rather than throw in the towel, position yourself to the side or back of the classroom and focus on having fun.

You may feel self-conscious, but no one else is paying any attention to whether or not you've mastered the steps. After a few classes, you'll get used to the methods and start feeling more comfortable with the moves, enabling you to enjoy yourself and the benefits the workout provides.

7 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Eyers C. Raising the barre: The benefits of ballet-inspired workouts. Henry Ford Health System.

  2. Naczk M, Kowalewska A, Naczk A. The risk of injuries and physiological benefits of pole dancing. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2020;60(6):883-8. doi:10.23736/S0022-4707.20.10379-7

  3. American Sports & Fitness Association. High-impact vs. low-impact exercises.

  4. YMCA of Middle Tennessee. What to expect in a barre class at the Y.

  5. Rios S, Marks J, Estevan I, Barnett L. Health benefits of hard martial arts in adults: a systematic review. J Sports Sci. 2018;36(14):1614-1622. doi:10.1080/02640414.2017.1406297

  6. Huston P, McFarlane B. Health benefits of tai chi. Canadian Fam Phys. 2016;62(11):881-890.

  7. United States Coast Guard. U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Exercise Guidelines.

By Laura Williams, MSEd, ASCM-CEP
Laura Williams is a fitness expert and advocate with certifications from the American Council on Exercise and the American College of Sports Medicine.