We already know that a majority of children in the United States do not get the recommended one hour of physical activity per day. Some sports and physical activities provide a lot of heart-pumping, body-sweating vigorous exercise.

Dance classes apparently do not.

Paul Sisson summarizes a new study just published in Pediatrics which shows that the exercise kids get from various dance classes hardly make a dent in that one-hour guideline:

To arrive at their conclusions, researchers asked 264 girls from 66 dance classes throughout San Diego County to wear calibrated accelerometers around their waists for the entirety of their classes.

Data from each device was downloaded and fed into a database for the research team to analyze. Patterns quickly emerged. On average, hip-hop classes delivered the most activity with 57 percent of class time for kids, and 31 percent for adolescents, spent in moderate-to vigorous activity.

Flamenco did the worst. Only 14 percent of in-class movement for kids, and 7 percent for adolescents, met standards for moderate to vigorous exercise.

Ballet had the biggest swing, with the level of physical activity ramping ups significantly among adolescents.


Sisson spoke with one of the study’s authors, who feels the results should serve as a “wake-up call” to parents:

“Part of it is to alert parents that kids in dance classes may not be as active as you think they are,” Sallis said.

But dance, he acknowledged, is more complicated than other sports like soccer or baseball.

Parents who sign their children up for classic ballet or hip-hop classes are trying to engender certain aesthetic sensibilities as much or more than they’re trying to help them get a workout.

Sallis said he understands that dance is a form of art and must be treated as such.

“We understand, of course, that dance comes mainly out of the arts and teachers are often teaching aesthetics. Dance instructors may not be thinking that what they are doing is a public health program, but we would like them to consider how they can contribute while they’re meeting their other goals,” Sallis said.


Should parents and children give up on dance as a mode of physical fitness? Absolutely not! Dance should be part of the “fitness portfolio” of all children, girls and boys, whether in a class or behind a bedroom door with the music blaring.

Let’s shake some bones!