Gazette News Service Here’s an exercise class with no pushups, squats or crunches. There are no sets or reps.

Instead, hips shake, shoulders shimmy, bodies twirl and feet step-touch to the beat of funky music pumping through a workout room at SWAT Fitness Club in Oshtemo Township.

The class, which ranges in size from 10 to 30 people, uses a combination of different types of music and dances, including hip-hop, Latin, contemporary and jazz, said Tracy Traskows, SWAT personal trainer and fitness manager.

"The class really appeals to people who love to dance," she said. "But it is also really fun for people who aren’t dancers."

Traskows said that the types of movement challenge the cardiovascular system as much or more than the standard aerobics classes.

"What makes it a good workout is the tempo and the fact that you’re using your whole body," she said. "The moves are always changing. It’s good to change the types of movement, making the body work harder to try to burn calories."

While the class is more popular among women at the club, she said the "modern, new and fresh" music also appeals to men.

Welcome to the world of danced-based exercise — group fitness classes that incorporate dancing and dance-inspired choreography into a cardiovascular workout.

The concept is not restricted to the Kalamazoo area, or even Michigan. It is a nationwide phenomenon.

"The idea is to make a dance class with a group fitness feel," explains Aaron Ellis, a certified group fitness instructor at the Health Quest fitness club in Flemington, N.J.

Ellis and Amy Scheffer, a certified fitness trainer and class instructor, teach group dance-fitness classes at the Flemington club.

"Dance-inspired classes are increasingly a big hit around the globe," says Kathie Davis, executive director of the IDEA Health & Fitness Association, an international organization of health and fitness professionals. According to the
2007 IDEA Fitness Programs and Equipment Survey, 53 percent of member respondents said danced-based group exercise classes continue to be a growing trend.

Dancing is also good for promoting bone density because it can involve high-impact moves and it contributes to balance and coordination, according to Ellis.

Does having two left feet mean you’re out of the dance fitness mix?

No way, says Scheffer, whose choreography is based on an eight-count beat.

"If you can count to eight and step touch right and left, absolutely you can do these classes."

— Gazette correspondent

Jennifer Wezensky contributed.