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Q & A

Got a question about some aspect of mind-body-spirit fitness? Ask! It can be as earthly as "Can a heart monitor really enhance my workout?" (the short answer to that is yes) or as heady as, "Don't I need to sell all my worldly goods and go live on a mountain top to find enlightenment?" (the short answer here is no). Needless to say, we can't answer every question we receive, but we will take one every month and answer it here. If you've got a burning need to know about something, email us, and you may find your query featured next time around.

I have trouble following the choreography in a modern ballet class for beginners. It is sometimes humiliating because most people catch on really fast. I do like to dance but was wondering if there are really any benefits from dancing that aren't already present in Yoga or Pilates.

(Article continued below.)

There are definitely benefits you get from dance that you don't get from Yoga or Pilates. (As a matter of fact, Pilates earned its original popularity in the dance community.) Dance is primarily a cardio exercise - you can build up a certain amount of lower body strength by dancing, but mostly it raises your heart rate, revs up your circulation and builds stamina and endurance. Luckily for those who don't like to dance, or who find the choreography challenging, there are other ways you can get the same benefits that dance offers. There are many other forms of exercise that do the same thing. Here are a few: running (either outside or on a treadmill), brisk walking, cycling (out of doors or stationary), spinning, swimming, hiking and using a cardio machine like the elliptical or the Stairmaster. If you are not enjoying your beginning ballet class, there are many other ways of getting cardio exercise.

If you enjoy dancing but feel like a klutz when you're taking a class, then you may want to consider working out to videos or DVDs at home. That way you can go at your own pace and rewind as much as you want until you get the moves down. (Incidentally, we have a whole section devoted to exercise video and DVD reviews.) You also may want to consider trying something other than ballet - perhaps ballet just doesn't suit you. Maybe the less complicated choreography of an aerobic dance or step class would work better for you. There many other dance styles that you may feel more comfortable with. Or maybe you just dance to your own inner drummer. If the latter's the case, then consider taking a day or two every week to put on your favorite tunes at home and dance on your own for a half hour or 45 minutes. There's certainly nothing wrong with improvising, if it keeps you exercising. (Just remember to stretch when you're done!)

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