Salsa: If You’re Wearing a Dress, Is It Really a Workout?

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If I’m looking to put on a dress and call it a workout, does 90 minutes of salsa lessons count? We hid a few heart rate monitors under our frocks to find out.

salsa dancer workout

If you've been to any of the popular salsa clubs in New York (or watched a J. Lo-Pitbull-Shakira video), you've seen the awe-inspiring, half-clad dancers twirling around each other with their hips gyrating and hands flicking.

They look as blissed out as yogis and as sweaty as spinners, and appear to be working hard enough that they can forgo their gym workouts for the day. But can they really?

What I wanted to know is this, if I’m looking to put on a dress and call it a workout, does 90 minutes of salsa lessons count?

Just what is the sustained effort and, really, how many calories am I going to burn?

The answer, as I slip out of salsa class? About 450 calories—and that's with a few (didn't-have-a-dance-partner) breaks.

With my heart rate monitor concealed under my (sexy) salsa top and my nightlife-approved, non-athletic bra, I went back to Step Into Salsa in Midtown.

I walked in there the first time with zero salsa experience and walked out of just one class (taught by the amazing Sheena and Cesar) feeling like I could go fake it at a club. And each of my classes since left me feeling like I’d gotten a solid workout.

Turns out, I ended up burning a little over 300 calories/hour, for a total of 456 calories, staying at the lower end of my fat burning zone (65–75 percent of my maximum heart rate) the whole time.

So how does that measure up? According to the Mayo Clinic’s calorie burning chart, it’s about the equivalent of a vigorous weights workout in the gym, sustained uphill walking or riding a stationary bike (and let’s face it, who has the attention span to sit on a stationary bike for a full hour and a half?).

The recommendation: For light workout or recovery days, I’m definitely going to replace gym workouts with a salsa class—or club. (And sip on water, not mojitos, like the regulars, whose long, lean legs are an inspiration.)

Plus, watching all the gorgeous Sofia Vergaras gyrate around and shimmy their shoulders in time with the music beats the heck out of staring at the same news clip on the gym TV every day of the week. —Ashley McCullough

Step into Salsa, $20 per class ($16 in advance) and the recommended beginner cycle starts this week; 500 8th Ave. at W. 36th St., 4th floor;

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