If someone told you you could reduce your cellulite by doing something that’s fun, sociable, makes you feel good and can only be done while listening to great music, you’d jump at it, wouldn’t you? Dancing is all of that and more. It’s fantastic exercise for the whole body, but especially for the lower body – calves, thighs, bottom and stomach all get a really good workout.
In fact, dancing is probably one of the most undervalued forms of exercise there is. When we decide we want to get fit, lose weight or tone up we tend to head for the gym or start jogging. But joining a dance class could give us the same fitness level and help us drop a dress size, while having much more fun and learning something new.
And, if you can find the dance and music that does it for you, because it’s exciting and fun instead of a chore, you’ll never miss a session.
Tip: As dancing is a form of exercise, always warm up before a class to avoid injuries.
You can always tell when you meet someone who has been a ballet dancer. They hold themselves upright, they are slim and graceful – even if they are eighty years old. You may not have much chance of becoming the next Darcey Bussell or Sylvie Guillem, but if you start ballet classes now you’ll get all the benefits of better posture, flexibility, strength, stamina and better muscle tone.
Ballet classes for adults have nothing to do with pink tutus and everything to do with developing a strong, lithe body. (Well, who wouldn’t want the body of a ballerina’] The moves stretch and lengthen the muscles rather than add muscle bulk, to help create a lean, streamlined shape. Just about every ballet position tones and shapes your legs and bottom, from plies (bending at the knees while keeping your back straight) to pirouettes.
If you have cellulite or wobbly bits on your inner thighs, ballet is the dance for you. Because the legs are so often in a ‘turned out’ position (toes pointing left and right instead of forwards), it’s fantastic for the inner thighs. Just standing in a basic ballet position with your heels together and toes apart starts to work the backs of the legs and thighs. And moves such as the arabesque, when you lift a leg up at an angle that really squeezes the gluteus maximus, are just what a wobbly bottom needs.
If you’re a total beginner you’re unlikely to be doing grands jetes (big leaps) across the studio floor; you’re more likely to be doing exercises at the barre. The emphasis is on sculpting the body rather than aerobics, although it will still help you lose any excess flab.
The other big plus with ballet is the arm movements that go with every new step you learn – great for flabby upper arms.
Once you know the moves you can practice at home in between classes: if done regularly enough you should start to notice a subtle change in your body shape within just a few weeks. And seeing your reflection in those floor-length studio mirrors is an added incentive not to head for the biscuit barrel when you get home.
Try this basic version of the classic ballet exercise at home for the inner thighs (and bottom, quads and calves):
• Place your feet about shoulder width apart and turn your toes outwards to the sides.
• Hold your arms slightly rounded with hands curved towards each other below your waist.
• Breathe in and, as you breathe out, bend your knees as much as is comfortable,
and lift your arms out to the sides to shoulder height. elbows slightly bent.
• Return to the starting position and repeat.
Do just a few plies at first and gradually build up as your muscles become stronger.
Latin American salsa is fast, fun and sexy and it can give you a real high. It’s a close dance with a partner and the fact that ‘salsa’ means ‘sauce’ in Spanish says it all. With all that twisting and turning, stomping and leg kicking, it really works the bottom, legs, waist and hips.
There’s now such a huge enthusiasm for salsa that you shouldn’t have too much trouble finding a class, and no, you don’t have to bring a dance partner. Swapping partners and dancing with different people is part of the fun. But if you’re worried about having two left feet, check out one of the ‘how to salsa’ DVDs that show you easy steps for beginners to give you a head start.
To get real benefits from any exercise you’ve got to do it regularly, which is where salsa fans win: it’s so addictive there’s even a group called ‘salsaholics’.
If you really want to bum fat to reduce your cellulite zones, sign up for some of the more hot and happening dance classes known as ‘street’ dance. This is the kind of dance you see in pop videos and commercials, so if you’ve ever fancied yourself as a pop princess, here’s your chance.
Classes can be a mix of different styles such as hip-hop or jazz – anything goes as long as it’s funky, lively and fun.
These are some of the most aerobic dance classes there are (talk to the teacher about your fitness level first before signing up), and aerobic dance is one of the fastest ways to lose excess baggage around the hips and thighs. It gives the circulation a sure-fire boost as well as the metabolism, which helps in the battle against cellulite.
Q: Salsa sounds great but I’m only moderately fit and I don’t want to look an idiot. Aren’t the moves a bit complicated too?
A: The steps are not particularly difficult; there are some complicated flourishes if you want to learn them but you’ll always start off with simpler movements when you’re a beginner. You don’t need to be fantastically fit to salsa dance either – although it’s high tempo you remain relatively stationary, with a lot of the movements almost ‘on the spot’.
Q: I’d love to join a dance class but I can’t commit to making it to the sessions every week. What about videos and DVDs?
A: There are lots of DVDs and videos that can teach you dance steps, but the best to use at home for tightening up wobbly thighs and reducing cellulite are those that are a combination of dance and fitness video/DVD. New York City Ballet, for instance, have produced DVDs based on ballet moves but with more aerobic exercises included. Sarah Jessica Parker of Sex and the City fame is a fan.