Dance Exercise Definition

Dancer at Zumba fitness training in dance studio

"You need to exercise." Everyone dreads hearing their doctor say these words, and from the first time they were uttered, people have been looking for a way to make exercise fun. One solution is dancing. Dance exercise has its origins in traditional dance, but at most gyms and other recreational outfits, it is also known as aerobics or aerobic dance and even Jazzercise®, Zumba® and hip-hop dance, and the list continues to grow as the definition of dance exercise continues to develop.

Aerobics Beginnings

In 1968, Dr. Kenneth H. Cooper, the so-called "father of aerobics," published his book "Aerobics," setting off a fitness craze that still endures, according to the Cooper Aerobics Center website. Although the "word that changed the world" is often used to refer to group exercise dance classes, Cooper's original assigned meaning for "aerobics" was: ​Method of physical exercise for producing beneficial changes in the respiratory and circulatory systems by activities which require meeting a modest increase in oxygen intake and so can be maintained​, according to the Cooper site. Dance exercise was not a part of this at the time.

Traditional Aerobic Dance

The variety of dance exercise classes available today owe their inception to Jacki Sorenson, the "originator of Aerobic Dancing," a program that combined the "benefits of jogging with the fun of dancing," according to Sorenson's website. Sorenson created her program in 1969 after being asked to design a women's fitness television program. Her dance exercise programs have grown and are still "offered throughout the United States and in Japan and Australia," according to her website.


Also in 1969, Judi Sheppard Missett created one of the first dance exercise crazes called Jazzercise® that quickly grew in popularity worldwide, according to the Jazzercise® website. Offering a "fusion of jazz dance, resistance training, Pilates, yoga, and kickboxing movements," Jazzercise® is still a well-liked form of dance exercise and fitness, according to the website, with 32,000 classes held weekly in 32 different countries.

Dance Exercise Explosion

Dance exercise forerunners Aerobic Dance and Jazzercise® helped to pave the way for many new forms of dance exercise, such as 24 Dance, which combines various dance styles such as salsa, cowboy boogie and tease into a total dance workout, according to 24 Hour Fitness. With the help of successful dance competition programs on television, dancing in general is making a comeback. People realize the fitness benefits of dance exercise, such as burning 300 to 500 calories per hour, according to 24 Hour Fitness.

Dance Fitness

Most gyms and other recreational venues offer a variety of dance exercise classes. For example, participate in Zumba® for a Latin-flavored class or Bollywood Dance for an experience based on Indian traditional dances, according to 24 Hour Fitness. Most classes are designed for all fitness levels but combine techniques and moves from interval training and dance routines for a workout that promotes ultimate fat burning and fitness, says 24 Hour Fitness. Most facilities offer an array of dance exercise classes, from hip-hop to belly dancing. Ultimately, any form of dance including a lot of movement will provide you with aerobic or cardio exercise.