New shape of fitness

first_img• Photo Gallery: 9/08: Swing dance class • Video: Dance Club WHITTIER – With its acrobatic twirls and jazzy kicks, swing is one of Wanda Rodriguez’s favorite dances. “I love the physical-ness of it,” Rodriguez said. “It’s a great workout, especially if we’re doing fast dances. It’s helped me stay in shape.” For many people looking to get fit, the dance floor offers an exhilarating alternative to the drudgery of the gym, and experts say sticking to an exercise regime is easier when it’s not a chore. “You don’t get that from walking in place on a treadmill,” said Dr. Ferdinand Venditti, spokesman for the American Heart Association. For baby boomers and older people, Venditti said, the duration and frequency of physical activity are more important than the intensity. “And if you enjoy it, you’re more likely to do it a lot,” he said. Time flies when dancing, too, meaning people may dance for long periods. “I’ve seen a lot of people go from being heavier to being really slim,” said Rodriguez, 48, a pediatric nurse, who has been dancing at Memories Dinner and Dancing in Uptown for the past four years or so. Although most people who take up ballroom dancing tend to be older, more young people also are walking into the studio these days, said John Crist, owner and founder of Memories, which offers classes during the week and live swing music and open dancing on weekends. “There’s grandparents that bring their grandkids, parents that bring their kids,” Crist said. “There’s an 85-year-old guy who was doing it back in the heyday. There’s a good percentage of high school and college kids. It’s a big cross-generational thing. Everybody just kind of hangs out together. And everyone dances with everyone.” Richards of USA Dance agreed that the age of dancers seems to be “coming down more and more.” Some universities have ballroom dance clubs. “There are more younger people,” agreed Sindi Dear, a six-year regular at Memories. She likes the club’s friendly atmosphere and says it keeps her coming back week after week. “Memories is a staple among all dancers as being friendly and welcoming,” she said. “You can go in there not knowing anyone and come out with a group of friends.” Crist, a former food critic for the Los Angeles Times, was a recreational swing dancer when he got the idea to open his own club after being invited to one too many dingy, smoky junk joints. Fortunately for him, his club opened during a swing revival in the late 1990s, when bands like Squirrel Nut Zipper and Indigo Swing were hitting the zenith of their popularity. Crist first opened the restaurant/dance club in Anaheim in 1997, but decided to move to Whittier in August 2001. After a shaky start in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Crist’s place has become well-known as a swing club with a family atmosphere. “It’s a place where everyone just feels really comfortable dancing together,” said Lee Kersten, a swing teacher and a member of Memories’ “Swing Team.” “That’s pretty typical of swing clubs, but we’re known as probably the friendliest club out there. That’s one of our claims to fame.” [email protected] (562) 698-0955, Ext. 3051160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREThe Christmas Truce of 1914 proved that peace is possible“That’s why we lead such sedentary lives. Many of us haven’t had fun being physically active since we were children,” said Cedric Bryant, chief science officer at the American Council on Exercise. Ballroom dancing is helping change the way people see exercise, especially for older Americans attracted by the sense of nostalgia it evokes. Adding to the attraction in recent years are pop culture hits like “Dancing With the Stars” and “Shall We Dance?” Membership in USA Dance, a ballroom dancing organization, has doubled to 20,000 over the past decade. And that only represents a small fraction of the people in the country who dance recreationally, said Ken Richards, the organization’s spokesman. Depending on the step, ballroom dancing can burn anywhere from 250 calories to 400 calories an hour – about the same as a brisk half-hour walk on a treadmill. And the more demanding dances like the salsa, samba and cha-cha can be comparable to an intense session at the gym, Richards said. Dancing works muscles in different parts of the body and sharpens balance and coordination. Memorizing steps, kicks and twirls also flexes the mind – a critical benefit for older Americans. last_img read more