Dance - which style is best for you?

Patsy Westcott

Match the dance steps to your fitness needs.


Thanks to the wild success of Strictly Come Dancing, dances such as the foxtrot, waltz, tango and quickstep are fashionable again.

Faster dances such as the quickstep raise heart rate, while the slower waltz demands muscle control and will help strengthen your torso, legs and lower back.

Benefits: 'It's great exercise for the over-50s because it's aerobic without being too strenuous and is based on walking at various paces', says Lyndon Wainwright of the British Dance Council.

Belly dancing 

Oriental dance, raqs sharqi or belly dancing as it's sometimes (incorrectly) called was traditionally performed by Middle Eastern women for weddings, births, festivals and parties. As it's low impact it won't strain your knees, shins or feet.

Benefits: 'It is particularly good for increasing flexibility of your spine, strengthening the torso, pelvic floor and arms,' says raqs sharqi dancer and teacher Liza Wedgwood. Later you'll get to learn faster, more aerobic movements such as shimmies.

Jive and swing (Lindy hop)

This category covers a range of related styles: 1950s-style rock 'n' roll, but also 1920s Lindy Hop, 1930s jitterbug, 1940s swing and French ceroc.

Benefits: 'A fantastic way to have an aerobic work-out,' says Katherine Barton of the Swing Dance Society. 'Dancers are guaranteed to tone up legs and buttocks as well as improve stamina, mobility and coordination.'

Line dancing

It began in the Wild West among cowboys who formed lines and walked in steps to country and western music. Today, line dancing is wildly popular and the accompanying music could be anything - soul, R&B, country, rock, pop or world music. At a beginners' class you'll learn basic steps like the grapevine, the shuffle and the pivot turn.

Benefits: A good way of easing into exercise if you're not used to it, as it's only mildly aerobic and will help improve muscle tone in your legs.


From humble beginnings in Cuba, Colombia and the Latino communities of downtown New York and Miami, salsa has swept the globe. It's a fast-paced, exciting partner dance that uses lots of hip movements. It's a great introduction to a world of Latin dances like the sexy lambada, the frenzied samba, and the sultry tango.

Benefits: 'Salsa gets the blood pumping to all parts of the body, and keeps the heart working healthily. One of the first things you learn is holding yourself correctly, not slumping and keeping your centre of gravity over your feet.

'This tightens your stomach muscles. It exercises muscles in your thighs, legs, arms and hips,' says teacher Miguel Angel-Plaza. 

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