By Verónica Mezzini & Michelle Roberts
Salsa. It's not just a topping for your favorite tortilla chips. This Latin dance and others alike could be the key to attaining a toned bod while sashaying to African-inspired beats and having fun. Just ask boricua beauty Jennifer López who seems to understand the benefits of these high-energy dances, flaunting lean legs at a recent performance.Shaking your hips to some of the most popular Latin rhythms could actually burn the same amount of calories as other traditional forms of exercise. In fact, a 140-pound adult could burn as many as 340 calories during one hour of dancing- the equivalent to swimming or running for the same amount of time. According to health and fitness website Livestrong.com, the movements of these fast-paced dances work the entire body and increase your heart rate to create an extended caloric burn.
Rather than peddling away on a stationary bike or being tied to the treadmill, these dances or bailes can get you a slimmer waistline without sacrificing any fun:• Samba: According to Zumba Instructor Luisa Martínez, this Brazilian dance is one of the most complete ways to burn calories. "You jump, you move all your abs, your hips...it is one of the rhythms that makes you sweat the most." In fact, the sexy steps will burn about 432 calories in one hour while toning your abductors, quadriceps, hamstrings, calves and glutes.
• Salsa: This musical style with Cuban and Puerto Rican roots allows you to work quads, hamstrings, calves, deltoids and biceps either with a partner, suelta (solo) or with multiple couples in a circle (also known as Rueda de Casino). Taking a spin on the floor with this dance is much like practicing low impact aerobics (about 400-410 calories per hour).• Merengue: Rather than walking for one hour at 4 mph, Merengue your way to 372 calories less. The official dance of the Dominican Republic, Merengue puts quads, hamstrings, calves, deltoids and biceps to work.
• Cumbia: Historically a courtship dance among Colombian slaves, Cumbia burns almost 396 calories in an hour. The drum-filled beats can help you burn as much fat as practicing water polo for 30 minutes all while exercising your quads, hamstrings, calves, pectorals and deltoid.Related: Kirstie Alley loses half a size on "Dancing"
Happy feet, happy mind
And it seems these forms of dance not only promise a healthy body, but a healthy mind as well. "It will keep your brain young by keeping your mind fit, because dancing improves your memory by making you recall the steps of your routines," says Nohelia Siddons, professional Fitness Coach."For many years people have seen exercise as an activity that required sacrifice in order to get fit," says Siddons and insists that bringing an amiga along will make it even more enjoyable. "Latin dance is social while many forms of exercise tend to be solitary activities. People go out with friends and exercise without even knowing it."
Certified Personal Trainer Linda Pedrosa also recommends incorporating dance into a fitness repertoire. Though individual exercise plans depend on many variables, practice four days of dance a week along with a "resistance workout twice a week, and one day of rest" for her winning combination.Each step you take to these exotic beats is a step towards a healthier lifestyle with the added benefit that you don't have to sweat alone; grab a dance partner and shake up those traditional exercises. Why climb stairs every day when you can transport yourself to the Caribbean even for just an hour while getting fit (and pumped!) listening to the sounds of Celia Cruz? You'll walk away not only with a tighter physique but also with a couple of new moves. ¡Azúcar!
Nohelia Siddons is a fitness coach and founder for FM Kidz, Inc.
Linda Pedrosa is an ACSM Certified Personal Trainer, AFFA Group Exercise Certified Instructor as well as a Certified Pilates Instructor.
Luisa Fernanda Martínez is a professional Zumba Instructor.