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By Michael L. Bishop, Ph.D.,
Executive Director, Wellspring Academy of the Carolinas

Every Monday and Tuesday night my entire family waits in eager anticipation for the next episode of Dancing With The Stars. We clear out the living room furniture and prepare our “dance floor” for our son and daughter ages 5 and 3.

The dance competition then begins between my little ones and sometimes involves my wife and me. If you have never seen a 5 year old try to do the Pasa Doble, let me tell you it’s hilarious. Although my wife and I take our weekly “dancing” ritual very lightheartedly, it does provide a good amount of exercise at the end of the day – typically a time when children aren’t getting much in the way of activity. The book written by our staff at Wellspring, The Sierras Weight Loss Solution for Teens and Kids, includes a table (p.146) that shows that dancers who move fast, like my kids do, expend lots of energy: 175 steps worth per minute of fast dancing. That means that my family gets about 7000 steps worth of fun activity (40 minutes of actual dancing) by dancing with the stars. If we sat around watching the show, we’d have expended only 80 steps worth of energy during those 40 minutes.

A glance of popular periodicals at the checkout counter provides anecdotal evidence from celebrities that Dancing With The Stars can provide a substantial workout for those who take it seriously. For example, last season’s contestant Marie Osmond told OK! Magazine, “I’m down 31 pounds so far. I’ve lost about five inches off my hips and five inches off my waist…I’ve added muscle mass and I am much more toned. It’s incredible.”

Us Magazine asserts, “If you thought ballroom dancing was not “real exercise” think again. The celebs on Dancing with the Stars have been peeling off the pounds as they have fine tuned their dance routines.” Entertainer and Dancing with the Stars contestant Wayne Newton is quoted as saying, “I’ve lost three pant sizes in 10 days!” while contestant Mark Cuban reports “I’ve already lost 20-some pounds! I lost a little before we started. Six or 7 more… and the six pack will come back!”

Access Hollywood reports that weight loss is a “super side effect of Dancing With the Stars.” NSYNC band member and contestant Joey Fatone reports a 20 pound weight loss since beginning the show. “My weight used to fluctuate obviously dancing with *NSYNC,” Joey recalls. “It used to drop 10-15 pounds when we were dancing but I never was eating healthy either.”

Although ballroom dancing is not be a miracle cure for obesity, it can be a good part of an active, healthy lifestyle, along with a low calorie-density, very low-fat diet and daily physical activity.

At Wellspring, we take the approach that weight loss must be fun and that our students absolutely need find activities that they enjoy – otherwise the lifestyle is not sustainable over the following months and years. For some this might be outdoor sports or team sports, and for others this might be some kind of dancing, whether classical, hip-hop, or ballroom.