Historically, ballroom dancing has not exactly stood out as a particularly sexy dance. But, thanks to the influence of ABC's runaway reality hit Dancing with the Stars (DWTS), these formal partner dances have been lifted from stiff to snazzy. If you avidly watch this high-energy show, you know that never before was the fox trot so alluring until Mario Lopez strutted his stuff in a skin-tight suit in the third season.
More slinky costumes and swoon-worthy performances are in store for the next installment of DWTS. The show will once again pit stars and their professional dance partners against each other and a finicky panel of judges. The previous cast has been filled with folks who know a thing or two about being fit, including tennis champ Monica Seles, Olympic Gold Medal skater Kristi Yamaguchi, and actress/sex symbol Shannon Elizabeth.
And even though most of the contestants enter the competition already in great shape, after the rigors of eight-hour workouts and all of that cha-cha-cha-ing, they get even more fit -- and losing weight is not uncommon. Former contestants Drew Lachey, Jerry Rice, and Stacy Keibler claimed to have lost at least 10 pounds each during their respective DWTS
Granted, the celebs and other dance contestants are under the Hollywood microscope, meaning there is excruciating pressure to portray perfection. And let's face it, a celeb's job is to look good. A bonus for them in that ballroom dancing breeds toned arms, lean legs, chiseled abs and amazing flexibility -- as beautifully illustrated in season four with Heather Mill's awe-inspiring cartwheel with her prosthetic leg.
It comes as no surprise, then, that a recent Mayo Clinic report says dancing is comparable to any other vigorous exercise. If regularly practiced, dancing can lead to a slower heart rate, lower blood pressure and improved cholesterol levels, all signs of improved health and fitness.
Depending on the style of dance, you can burn between 250 and 400 calories per hour. High-energy routines like the salsa, samba, and cha-cha can be compared to an intense workout at the gym. Plus, being a weight-bearing activity, ballroom dancing builds bone density and works nearly all muscles of the body and sharpens balance and coordination.
Grab a partner and check out Ballroomdancers.com for step-by-step instructions on every style of dance, including how-to videos.
If you would rather learn from a pro, peruse the directory of dance studios around the country and set up an appointment with a local dance instructor or join a dance class.
You can also pick up the steps from your favorite DWTS divas through the Dancing with the Stars: Cardio Dance DVR. Burn calories as featured dancers Ashly, Kym and Maksim lead you through the cha-cha, the samba, the paso doble and the jive.
Even if you can't give Monica, Kristi, and Shannon a run for their money on the dance floor this season, at least you can look just as good and have a dance of a time doing it. Give ballroom dancing a chance to get you fit.
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