Dance workouts prove that fitness doesn't have to be a grind – you can hone your body and clear your mind with an exercise that doesn't inspire thoughts of dread. Soul-lightening dance workouts are more than just fun – with regular low-impact cardiovascular exercise such as dancing, you'll tone your muscles, increase endurance, decrease blood pressure, improve posture and balance, stave off common diseases and even reduce stress. Of course, this aerobic workout also melts away calories, but the question of how many varies widely.
Light to Moderate Dancing
Rhythmic dances such as the foxtrot and waltz offer an especially low-impact option for dance workouts, but they burn the fewest number of calories. According to the American Council on Exercise, these styles of dance burn about 260 calories per hour for a 160-pound woman. Based on algorithms generated by Emory University, HealthStatus reports a comparable burn of about 221 calories – for the same duration and weight – when ballroom dancing slowly. Fast ballroom dancing bumps the burn up to 403 calories. Styles such as these, which require you to hold your partner, help tone the arms and calves.
Aerobic dancing, ballet and modern dance increase the burn to about 432 calories per hour for a 160-pound woman, according to HealthStatus. The American Council on Exercise estimates that a 160-pound woman dancing salsa for an hour burns about 500 calories, nearly double that of less-vigorous dance styles. At the top of the heap, high-intensity dance fitness classes such as Zumba can melt away about 576 calories per hour. Dances such as the jitterbug, Tango and paso-doble focus on toning the arms, thighs and core, while hip-hop and salsa styles focus squarely on trimming the body from the waist down.
Your calorie burn varies based on myriad factors, from the intensity of your dance workout to your body weight to the duration of the exercise. You can increase calorie burn slightly by equipping yourself with ankle or wrist weights during your dance workout, but these accessories cater to intermediate and experienced dancers. Music makes a difference, too – the more beats per minute, the more calories you'll burn.
In general, an hour's worth of dancing burns about the same number of calories as a light, hour-long jog. For a 160-pound woman, an hour of dancing stacks up favorably to moderately intense activities such as power yoga, walking, moderate swimming and low-impact aerobics, all of which burn between 375 and 445 calories per hour. For the same size person, more vigorous cardio activities substantially outclass dancing when it comes to calories burned. For instance, bicycling at 12 to 14 mph sheds 634 calories in an hour's time, while running at 6 mph burns 730 and working out on an elliptical trainer melts away 826.
Dan Ketchum has been a professional writer since 2003, with work appearing online and offline in Word Riot, Bazooka Magazine, Anemone Sidecar, Trails and more. Dan's diverse professional background spans from costume design and screenwriting to mixology, manual labor and video game industry publicity.