Boost Your Happiness and Health With Latin Dance

Yes, we know your Latina blood gives you natural rhythm. But are you getting the most out of your girls’ nights out? It’s time to shake up your half-hearted merengue routine and sign up for a class. The health benefits of regular vigorous dance sessions, such as Zumba aerobics and Brazilian capoeira, are vast. In addition to strengthening bones, toning muscles and boosting heart health, hooking up with comadres for regular dance-offs will also make you happier and smarter. Science shows that exercise, especially in groups, can work as an instant antidepressant. Here are three ways to add a dash of sexy to your summer exercise routine:

1. Zumba Aerobics. This workout originated in Colombia, but it takes Latin dance moves from everywhere: salsa, merengue, reggaeton, hip-hop, pop and more. Unlike typical aerobics routines that focus on counting out loud, Zumba sessions are high-energy parties where you dance to the beat and burn between 400 and 600 calories. The high levels of feel-good hormones you will release help lower stress, avoid hypertension and keep your heart healthy.

2. Brazilian Capoeira. A combination of martial arts and music, this art form originated in the quilombos -- or slave settlements -- of South America. The practice was both a way for slaves to entertain themselves and a cunning way for them to practice self-protection moves in case of an attack. Today, this “dance-fight” is practiced around the world. It can be a lethal workout on the dance floor, burning as many as 500 to 700 calories per hour. The best part? You will be using your entire body -- head, arms, legs, and feet -- to kick, cartwheel and do handstands. You’ll have incredible flexibility.

3. Argentine Tango. This well-known dance is best described as a combination of walking and gymnastics. Though it can burn anywhere from 200 to 400 calories per hour, the dance’s powerful workout is often overlooked. Those slow, deep lunges are amazing for improving coordination and toning legs. And its sharp turns require a strong, wide upper body frame, which in turn improves posture.

by Shirley Velásquez