LA’s fun new fitness fad: Bollywood dance
Stars are singing the praises of Bollywood-style “Doonya Dance” to slim without the pain and boredom of traditional exercise. But is it really possible to twirl off the flab? FIRST health and wellness columnist Jorge Cruise weighs in
Back in the ’60s, it was the Mashed Potato. A decade later, everyone was doing the Electric Slide. Then Cotton-Eyed Joe hit the scene and we line-danced our way into the new century. And now a new craze is sweeping the nation with television’s hottest morning host raving about how Bollywood dance helps her impress on the dance floor and stay fit. The dance style blends traditional South Asian folk dancing with hip-hop moves (think “Jai Ho,” the over-thetop dance number from the closing credits of the 2008 hit film Slumdog Millionaire), and fans like Kelly Ripa say the combination provides a fullbody workout that’s actually fun.
Typical Bollywood dance classes are broken up into segments, consisting of learning a couple of dance moves at a slow pace before putting them all together in a short burst
of high-intensity movement. These interludes keep heart rate revved to double calorie burn—experts say it’s possible to burn up to 800 calories during an hour-long class. The pace changeup also allows dancers to get the study-proven benefits of highintensity interval training sessions— including melting 3 times more belly fat, boosting short-term memory by 25 percent and increasing energy by 69 percent—without feeling like they’re exercising.
Fitness buffs report that the dance moves also target specific muscle groups to provide head-to-toe toning. Hip-swiveling motions isolate deeptissue abdominals that cinch in the waist, and shimmying and twirling tone the glutes and thighs. And while most dance-based fitness classes don’t spend much time focusing on the arms, fans say Bollywood-style dance is infused with fluid arm and shoulder movements that help banish bat wings.
Despite the potential benefits, some women say they’re reluctant to try the fitness fad because it looks too hard. But devotees note that the moves are deceptively easy to follow. In fact, one of the hallmarks of the classes is a party-like atmosphere, where even women who consider themselves uncoordinated can just let loose and have fun. This friendly ambience also amps up slimming: In a study in the Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, women who participated in playful exercise lost 75 percent more fat and gained 200 percent more lean muscle over three months than those who did traditional workouts.
Still, experts say Bollywood-style dance isn’t for everyone. The classes are high-intensity and include movements that can be hard on the joints. That’s why it’s important to warm up before class with stretches or light cardio. Trainers also advise working with an experienced dance instructor who can monitor for proper posture and movements to help avoid injury and muscle stiffness.