Hip hop aerobics get your heart pumping and your booty shaking. For fitness buffs who like a learning opportunity mixed with a fast-paced workout, a hip hop exercise class delivers. Pick up street style while you kick up your cardio with popping and locking, breaking, top rockin', jerking, freezes, spins and slides. Hip hop's East Coast, West Coast, African, Latin and Asian influences contribute to a varied class with vigorous fitness challenges.
Work It Off Workout
Hip hop aerobics workouts follow a basic gym cardio class structure with some creative differences. The workout opens with a warm-up to get muscles flexible and raise your heart rate. The warm-up can take up to 10 minutes and might include dance moves at a slower pace than the main exercise segment. Hip hop dancing to loud, pulsing music is the body of the session. Expect at least 40 minutes of a one-hour workout to be a combination of demonstration and instruction in new moves performed in rapid succession with as much artistry as you can manage. Some instructors just call out combinations for the group to follow, so you might want to ease into a fast-paced class with rudimentary knowledge of hip hop moves. Not all hip hop workouts have a designated cool-down period – you could end with a class “performance” of the combination you worked on or a few minutes of slower moves or easy stretching.
Cardio and Conditioning
Hip hop is both aerobic and anaerobic, providing total fitness, endurance and strength gains. Hip hop’s high-energy, constant movement is powerful cardiovascular exercise. The American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine points out that aerobic workouts improve circulation and cardiopulmonary efficiency, reduce cholesterol levels and blood pressure, strengthen the heart and lungs and lower stress, decreasing damaging stress hormones in your system and boosting metabolism and immunity. David Van Daff, sports coach and executive of the National Academy of Sports Medicine, points out that the high-intensity skipping, hopping, jumping and other nonstop explosive hip hop moves work like plyometrics, leveraging body weight and muscle contractions to build stronger muscles and increase bone density.
Mood-Maxing Calorie Crusher
Hip hop workouts boost your mood and burn off calories. It is estimated that an hour of hip hop or aerobics for a 150-pound person burns 400 to 500 calories per hour of exercise. A 2007 study published in the “Journal of Perceptual & Motor Skills” found that aerobics and hip hop resulted in increased levels of positive mood and feelings of well-being, as well as low levels of psychological distress and fatigue. Aerobics and hip hop beat body conditioning and ice skating, the alternative anaerobic and cardio activities in the study.
If you're not an urban B-Boy or a regular Krumper, a few safety precautions will lower your risk for injury in demanding hip hop aerobics. The American Council on Exercise says to work on flexibility, balance, core strength and endurance so you can jump in on the upbeat. Start your hip hop career in a beginner class, to learn basic moves correctly, and pay attention to your landing surface. Sprung wood or marley-type dance floors absorb impact best. Forget the broken-down, scruffy “authentic” high-tops. Hip hop is usually danced in sneakers; be sure yours provide good side-to-side stability, arch support, a comfortable toe box and enough cushioning for shock absorption. The American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine recommends checking the credentials of your instructor and checking in with your health care provider before signing up for class. And don’t skip or slight the cool down. It lowers pumped-up levels of adrenalin and lactic acid, prime contributors to muscle soreness.
- Davey D's Hip Hop Corner: Hip Hop History 101
- American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine: What is Aerobic Dancing?
- PubMed: Mood after Various Brief Exercise and Sport Modes: Aerobics, Hip-Hop Dancing, Ice Skating, and Body Conditioning
- Fitness Magazine: The Britney Spears Workout: How She Got Her Body Back
- Everyday Health: Calories Burned from Hip Hop Abs, DVD, Total Body Burn
- Health Status: The Most Accurate Calories Burned Calculator
- American Council on Exercise: Dancing Your Way to Fitness
- Hip Hop Dance Guide: Taking Hip-Hop Class: What to Expect
Benna Crawford has been a journalist and New York-based writer since 1997. Her work has appeared in USA Today, the San Francisco Chronicle, The New York Times, and in professional journals and trade publications. Crawford has a degree in theater, is a certified Prana Yoga instructor, and writes about fitness, performing and decorative arts, culture, sports, business and education .