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Dance the pounds away

Health clubs add funk to fitness regimens

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 the Health Quest fitness club in Flemington.

No groans of protest are heard from this group of mostly women, some of them pushing 45. Instead, they sound like they're having a party.


"Smokin' hot, people!"

"We rock"

And, boy, can they dance.

"I lost 80 pounds doing this," declares a sweaty but elated Caron Moskowitz, 43, of Flemington. "And I feel like I'm on Broadway."
Welcome to the world of danced-based exercise — group fitness classes that incorporate dancing and dance-inspired choreography into a cardiovascular workout.

"The idea is to make a dance class with a group fitness feel," explains Aaron Ellis, a certified group fitness instructor and former professional dancer.
Ellis and Amy Scheffer, a certified fitness trainer and Moskowitz's 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.

"Hip-hop, funk and all kinds of Latin-based classes are very popular right now," Davis says.
Incorporating dance movements into a group exercise program is nothing new, according to Chris Freytag, a certified group fitness trainer in Minnesota and a columnist for Prevention magazine.

"We've always been adding mambo and cha-cha-cha and different moves like that into our dance classes," Freytag says. "But the whole idea of a dance party kind of a feel has been within the last five years."

The concept is to generate a commitment to physical exercise by making it seem like it isn't work.

"You don't feel like you're exercising," says Flemington resident Melissa Urban, 33, a member of Scheffer's class. "You feel like you're having fun. It makes you feel young and sexy again."

"When it gets down to exercise, why do people quit? Because they're bored," says Freytag. "It's human nature to want to do things that are fun."

The popular "Dance Dance Revolution" video game and television's "Dancing with the Stars" has fueled the public's growing interest in dance as an exciting, glamorous activity.

But dancing really does provide a comprehensive workout, say fitness experts.

"You can burn anywhere from 350 to 500 calories per class, depending on factors like your age, weight and how conditioned you are," says Scheffer, who uses her past experience as a professional dancer to choreograph the jazz, Latin, funk and hip-hop flavored dance routines she teaches.

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.

"Because I personally really want people to be successful and feel successful at the end of the class, I really take my time teaching the choreography," she adds.

"People are a little intimidated to come to class because they think it will be really dancey people," says Amy Margaret MacDonald, a certified personal trainer who offers her own class, "Amy's Dance

Cardio Party," at the Somerset Hills YMCA in Basking Ridge.

"I try to make everyone feel welcome. I tell them, 'If you get stuck, just keep going.'"

Meg Nugent may be reached at [email protected] or (973) 392-7955.

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