Dance moves

Tired of the same old exercise routine? If the thought of putting on your running shoes makes you want to curl up on the couch, it’s time to find something new. Here’s what Nicole McCreedy suggests.

Dance is a great form of exercise, but most importantly it’s fun. So if motivation is an issue for you, then it may be time to try a dance class.

Dancing is a workout for the whole body. A half hour of vigorous dancing burns as many calories as jogging! But not only is it good for the heart, it’s also a weight-bearing activity. This makes for strong bones that, in turn, may reduce the risk of falling and osteoporosis. Depending on the dance form, it can also help to strengthen muscles in the stomach and thighs, and improve balance, posture, and coordination. Plus, the mental work to remember dance steps and sequences actually boosts brainpower and develops memory.  For those with diabetes, dancing – like other forms of physical activity  – promotes weight loss and lowers blood sugar.

And there are so many options to choose from! Whether your style is stomping your feet in gumboots or to ‘sokkie’ on the dance floor with your partner, you can still enjoy the health benefits.

African dance

Gumboot dancing has its roots in South Africa among black mine workers, but is now world-famous. Rhythmic body movements using all parts of the body accompanied by a forward bending motion are characteristic of African dance, and dance steps are performed with the feet and knees facing forward. Percussion often dominates the music – some dance studios hire drummers to accompany classes and rehearsals.


You don’t need to be a great dancer, or be born with rhythm, to have a good time in Zumba classes. The upbeat Latin American rhythms of salsa, flamenco, and merengue music make Zumba classes feel more like a dance party than a workout. But Zumba classes are more than just a good time. Regular weekly attendance at Zumba improves health and fitness levels, and can lead to weight loss.

Indian classical dance

The origin of Indian classical dance stems from sacred Hindu musical theatre styles. The umbrella term, Indian classical dance, includes seven major styles: Kathak, Bharatnatyam, Manipuri, Kathakali, Odissi, Kuchipudi and Mohiniyattam. Indian classical music is played with the dance, and percussion forms part of this musical backdrop. It is common for dancers to wear bells around their ankles to complement the percussion. This form of dance is known to improve physical fitness, tone the body and increase stamina. The concentration required strengthens mental abilities, self-esteem and helps the body-mind relationship.


Styles of ballroom dance include waltz, foxtrot, tango, cha-cha, swing, and others. With very few exceptions, all of these are danced with a partner. People with diabetes attending ballroom or Latin American dance classes are also more likely to keep participating in the activity over time, compared with an exercise programme at home or at the gym. “Studies have also found that compared with traditional cardiac workouts, people with heart conditions who danced for just 20 minutes 3 times a week saw significant improvements in their heart health,” explains Kate Bristow, a Diabetes Specialist Nurse in Pietermaritzburg and the Midlands.

Did you know?

According to a study in “The Arts in Psychotherapy”, the activity of dance releases mood-improving chemicals into our bodies that literally help alleviate depression. Social bonds are also increased in group dance sessions and this helps reduce stress in the long-term.

Ask the expert: Ilona Padayachee, Biokineticist

Tips to stay motivated

Staying motivated isn’t hard if you stay flexible and have fun. Eventually, you’ll realize that you’re actually enjoying the workout – and before you know it, you’ll be looking forward to exercising.

  1. Participate in group exercises

Having a friend that holds you accountable is a way of keeping motivated to exercise. Group exercise classes are usually fun, especially if it’s with a group of friends.

  1. Play music

When you feel discouraged or experience a slump in motivation, put on some fun tunes and your mood will soon change.

  1. Don’t make exercise seem like hard work

When you start treating exercise like hard work, that’s exactly what it will become. Your exercise routine should be light, fun and exciting rather than something you have to do. Don’t let yourself get a bad attitude towards exercise: if this happens you’ll be more likely to give up than press on to reach your exercise goals.

  1. Keep an exercise log

Having a visual reminder of the days you work out will keep you motivated to keep going. Also make a note any time you reach your exercise goals: if your clothing fits you better, if you’re feeling and looking healthier, or if your blood sugar levels have stabilised.

  1. Hire a personal trainer

When you start paying for services, you’re more likely to stick to the exercise programme. Most personal trainers will charge you the full rate if you cancel at the last minute, so you’re less likely to do that!

  1. Keep positive

Always try to have a positive attitude towards exercise. A positive mind can help you to achieve all of your exercise goals and remain focused and motivated.

Embrace the chill

We’ve got a dose of winter workout motivation that will ensure the only layers you’ll be adding this chilly season are layers of clothing! Lee-Anne Spurdens gives us the ideas.

While it’s tempting to stay under a blanket all winter long, hibernating isn’t good for your body or mind. Exercise is essential to manage your diabetes well, keep away the winter blues and build a healthy body – which also means you’ll be able to battle the winter germs better. Need some ideas to get you started? Here are seven of our favourites.

  1. Skipping Mobile, inexpensive and effective, this might be the most winter-friendly workout around. If it’s too cold or wet to skip outdoors, any indoor non-slippery surface will do (even in front of the TV). Skipping ups the heart rate, burns calories and strengthens muscles and bones. Start with five to 10 minutes a day.
  2. Boot camp If a little authority is what you need to get moving, you could be a winter warrior in the making! Boot Camp Academy SA (bcasa.co.za) offers “military” style boot camp classes across the country for all fitness levels.
  3. Exercise videos If you prefer to be drilled from the comfort (and warmth) of your living room, an exercise DVD is a good option. And who better to whip you into shape than martial arts guru, Billy Blanks? His legendary Tae Bo workouts are a mix of taekwondo and boxing, and available from takealot.com.
  4. Fit radio Sometimes all you need to get you moving is the right music. The Fit Radio app delivers a fresh new workout soundtrack whenever you need it and is guaranteed to get you off the couch, even if all you do is dance around your living room. Which brings us to…
  5. Dancing A tonic for body and soul, the ultimate stress buster and a fun way to warm up a cold body! From ballet and ballroom to hip hop and salsa, there are adult classes available for just about every type of dance. Check out dancedirectory.co.za to find a class in your area – soon you’ll be walking taller, sitting straighter and bending down more easily.
  6. Walking A brisk, daily 30-minute walk can help maintain a healthy weight, strengthen bones and muscles, manage high blood pressure and heart disease, improve balance and lift your spirits.
  7. Running If you’re ready (and willing) to take your walking up a notch, why not try a local park run? These free, timed 5km runs take place every week all over the world, are open to all levels and are a great way to get the whole family moving and make new workout buddies. Visit parkrun.com to find a run near you.

Morning movers and shakers

Generate some heat on chilly winter mornings with this 3-minute blood-pumping routine:

  • Jumping Jacks: Jump your feet out and sweep your arms up over your head, then jump feet together and bring arms to your side. Repeat for 60 seconds.
  • Side squats: Squat as low as you can, stand up and take a step to the side. Squat down again. Repeat on the other side. Keep going for 60 seconds.
  • Plank: Get into a push-up position. Bend your arms to the floor, and rest your body weight on your forearms. Your elbows should be directly beneath your shoulders, your body in a straight line from head to feet. Hold for 60 seconds.

How to motivate yourself to get off the couch

Ask the expert: Ilona Padayachee, Biokineticist

Enjoyment: This is the key to staying motivated, so make sure you enjoy whatever exercise you choose.

Goal setting: This reaffirms a sense of mission, purpose and direction. Set goals during winter to keep you motivated, and reward yourself for sticking to your exercise routine.

Variety: Change up your workout routine to prevent it from becoming boring – try different activities, train outdoors as well as in, and work out with a partner to keep things interesting.

Happy feet

Your toes might be in hiding over winter, but that doesn’t mean you should neglect them. Podiatrist Anette Thompson has this advice for healthy winter feet:

  • Treat dry, flaky skin with an exfoliating foot scrub and a good foot and heel balm.
  • Warm feet up by soaking them in warm (not hot) water for five to 10 minutes. Follow with foot balm and thick socks for extra snugness.
  • Shoes with inflexible soles prevent natural bending at the ball of the foot, which can cause circulation problems. Tight shoes and a toe shape that does not match your foot shape can also limit circulation. Wear low-heeled shoes with flexible soles that don’t squeeze the front of your foot (this can cause inflammation of the big toes or ingrown toenails). Buy a larger size if you wear thick socks, and choose shoes with built-in cushioning – this promotes circulation under the ball of the foot.