Dance Your Way to Cancer Prevention

MD Anderson Encourages Everyone to Get 30 Minutes of Daily Exercise

MD Anderson News Release 02/15/11

When Karen Franklin was diagnosed with breast cancer last year, it was her passion for Zumba® that helped her beat the disease. Franklin’s story, say experts at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, reminds us about exercise’s cancer-fighting benefits.

“Whether you’re undergoing treatment or trying to avoid developing cancer, exercise makes your body stronger,” said Karen Basen-Engquist, Ph.D., professor of behavioral science at MD Anderson. “By choosing a fun workout, like dance classes, it’s easier to get the 30 minutes of daily exercise you need to maintain a healthy weight, which may reduce your chances for some types of cancer.”

“By boosting my fitness level, Zumba® helped me avoid the depression and general side-effects that often accompany chemotherapy,” said Franklin, a licensed Zumba® instructor. “And the upbeat Latin music, the camaraderie and the dancing made it feel like a treat. It motivated me to keep working out so my body could fight off the cancer.”

MD Anderson encourages men and women to integrate fitness into their daily routine. Here are three trendy dance classes that can help jumpstart a lagging workout regimen.


  • What it is: Aerobic moves based primarily on Latin dances. Moves are repetitive and easily modified for a low or high impact workout. 
  • Tunes: Latin music like salsa, cumbia, reggaeton and meringue, as well as other world music like Samba and Bollywood.
  • Moves used: Marching in place while swaying the hips and arms, stepping side-to-side, stepping forward and back.
  • Health perks: The high-energy, fast-paced moves provide a good cardio workout that burns fat and builds endurance. It also strengthens muscles by pulling them in many different directions. Regular students often lose weight since each one-hour class can burn up to 1,200 calories.

Nightclub cardio

  • What it is: A nightclub atmosphere with strobe lights, loud music and easy-to-follow choreography.
  • Tunes: 80s, 90s, dance, old school, hip-hop.
  • Moves used: Heel kicks, free dance, side-to-side step touch.
  • Health perks: This aerobic workout gets students’ hearts pumping, boosts their energy, helps burn calories, and strengthens the legs, abs and arms.

Belly dancing

  • What it is: A low-impact workout that uses controlled movements that isolate different parts of the body, including the hips, shoulders, chest and stomach.
  • Tunes: Traditional Middle Eastern dance music, Flamenco.
  • Moves used: Spins, turns, shimmies and arm movements.
  • Health perks: The emphasis on the hips and belly area helps trim excess belly fat, which helps reduce the risk for colorectal cancer and possibly pancreatic, breast (after menopause) and uterine cancers, according to the American Institute for Cancer Research.

Basen-Engquist acknowledges that no dance class is one-size-fits-all. “But by choosing one that you enjoy, you’ll more likely make exercise a habit and keep your body healthy for years to come.”

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