Belly dancing, which is the generic Western name for a series of dances originating in the Middle East, focused on isolating and manipulating specific groups of muscles, particularly in the upper body, is gaining wide popularity as a good core-strengthening workout.

But is this just another fad stemming from the Western obsession with the ‘exotic?' Is this just a new thing for the girls to join as a way to reduce the tummy? Not quite.

Belly dancing, contrary to its name, employs the larger and minor muscle groups of the abdomen, pelvis, spine, trunk, neck, gluteals, and upper arms. It is a great full-body workout that uses the body's own weight to build strength, flexibility, tone muscles and improve balance. It goes above and beyond the needs of just exercising for a flat stomach, it is a workout for the whole torso!

Core muscles such as the transverses abdominis, erector spinae, rectus abdominis, pelvis floor muscles, gluteus maximus, are imperative for stability, as they maintain your posture and help you stay upright, along with facilitating various kinds of movement and muscle control. Core muscles are essentially what allow you to hold yourself upright, resist gravity, and your own body weight. Core muscles stabilise and support other muscle groups. This is why fitness experts place emphasis on strengthening core muscles— a strong core will help women minimize their chances of injury and reduce the possibility of developing problems such as osteoarthritis and even menstrual issues.

These dance classes are wonderful for exercising your core muscles. Simply put, it involves isolating and controlling various muscle groups in the body, which must be supported by the core muscles. Thus the gentle, repetitive rolls, shakes, and undulations that are characteristic of belly dancing work to strengthen and engage the core. There is greater release of synovial fluid, the body's own lubricant in the vertebrae. Therefore it counters excessive compression of the vertebrae, alleviating lower back and joint pain.

Core control is also essential for posture and carriage. Walking gracefully and moving fluidly are all related to having a strong core, something belly dancers develop over time.

Because belly dancing not only exercises the major muscle groups but also focuses on isolating and working minor muscles, it gives a person a better overall workout and muscular control.

An hour-long session of belly dancing burns between 300 to 500 calories. As it works out the core muscles, along with elevating heart rate, it is a good cardiovascular workout that continues to burn calories long after the session has ended. So combined with a balanced diet, it is a good way to lose weight.

Belly dancing can also help women with childbirth. The same core muscles are employed during child birth and regularly exercising the core before becoming pregnant can make the process smoother.

And the best part is belly dancing is extremely low impact, meaning it doesn't hurt your joints or jolt you, leaving you injured. It's fun, no-stress, and incorporates variety.

If you have trouble sticking to a traditional workout regime, find aerobics, weights, and jogging boring, or are just looking for a change, belly dancing may just be the workout for you.

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Image Courtesy: Glow Images.