Back in 2009, when Bradley Cooper came down the escalator in The Hangover, my heart skipped a beat—or maybe two. That suit! That attitude! Those blue eyes! That hair! Oh, that hair…
Since then, I’ve been following him like a girl in braces follows the latest teen heartthrob. OK, maybe not just like that girl. I don’t kiss his picture before I fall asleep every night. But his style, attitude, and, of course, hair, has ensured my continued patronage of movie theaters.
So when Silver Linings Playbook came to my local theater, I was there with bells on. In the highly-awarded film, Cooper plays Pat Solitano, a man who has lost everything—his job, his wife, his house—and after spending eight months in a state institution, moves in with his parents. Determined to rebuild his life, make over his body, and win his wife back, he gets bound up in a tumultuous—yet incredibly beneficial—relationship with Tiffany, who is played by Jennifer Lawrence. Tiffany promises to help reunite Pat with his wife if he does something with her: be her dance partner.
First, let me say that their dancing in Silver Linings Playbook is hilarious, embarrassing, and heartwarming. But even more important to me—and any other woman who would rather gain weight than run—dancing is a fantastically fun workout. Think: Molly Shannon in Saturday Night Live‘s “I’m 50” skit.
I’m partial to dance classes for their energetic, let-loose atmosphere. They have a way of perking me up and getting me into the groove no matter how busy or stressful of a day I’m having. And I don’t even care if I look ridiculous, flailing about in hopes that I’ll hit the right move eventually. Hey, if Cooper can dance like a maniac on the silver screen while wearing sweats and a trash bag for a shirt, I can certainly shed all shame in front of the other dancers in my class. (What happens in dance class stays in dance class.)
What’s more, dance classes make you sweat… a lot. A single Zumba fitness class burns an average of 369 calories (or about 9.5 kcal per minute), according to research from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse’s Department of Exercise and Sport Science. And, as it works varying large muscle groups continuously, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends dance classes as a way to improve cardiovascular fitness. (Did I mention that heart disease is the number-one killer of women in the United States?)
Want to get a Bradley Cooper-worthy workout on the dance floor? Here are three fun fitness dance classes and how to get started with each:
When we were little, most girls wanted to be a ballerina. Now, as women, we just want a ballerina’s body. Luckily, barre classes are a perfect way to lengthen your look. Using the ballet barre as a prop, these ballet-inspired workouts focus on bodyweight isometric moves, in which you hold positions like pliés and squats for a minute or more.
> Sign Up! Look for Pure Barre or The Bar Method studios in your city. They are some of the most popular barre franchises out there, and have locations across the country. Before your first class, talk to your instructor about any physical limitations that you might have. She can work with you to safely modify poses.
Today’s most popular dancercise class, Zumba, has 140,000 locations throwing “fitness parties” every week. By matching moves from Latin, Creole, and African dance traditions to top 40 tunes, Zumba’s fun, loose, and laughter-filled atmosphere attracts dancer of all ages and fitness levels.
> Sign Up! Find a party near you at zumba.com. Keep in mind that Zumba is a trademarked class and certifies its instructors, so while other Zumba-inspired classes may be available near you, only certified classes are listed on Zumba’s site.
A sultry way to tone your hips, butt, and legs, Salsa is a fun way to immerse yourself in not only fitness, but Latin culture. Plus, the classes are muy social, meaning your newfound amigos will make sure you never skip a class for pizza night.
> Sign Up! Dance studios, rec centers, and athletic clubs offer salsa classes for students of all ages and skill levels. Stick with sneakers—at least for your first few classes—to keep from twisting an ankle or harpooning your partner’s foot. Or just start dancing in your kitchen!
* This post is part of GenFab’s February Blog Hop.