Dance is indeed the hidden language of the soul. Martha Graham aptly described it as such and that it’s not just about the fun of it, or its ability to get rid of boredom, but its healing powers in terms of emotional, psychological, and physical wellbeing makes it much more important than we give it credit for. With these, it’s not surprising that gyms near you will surely incorporate dance – African dance for that matter – in workout routines.  

Historically, dance, alongside music, was a great part of ancient African tribes’ gatherings and social events and it offered them a way of being expressive and a source of spiritual vigor, fulfillment, and pleasure. In fact, dance accompanied them in their marches to battlegrounds and it is believed to have helped release an immeasurable amount of energy and a source of motivation for victory. This was then. But the same can be said of today when we talk about what the activity does for those who take it up. These are just some of the reasonable indications of why African dance and fitness are so connected and why most gyms offer dance as part of workout sessions for their members. 


Some Common Types of African Dance at the Gym

Dance sessions at gyms set to amazing afrobeats with great lyrics, rhythms and instrumentals undoubtedly constitute some of the best activities any gym could possibly have. Before we get into the benefits of these properly, let’s look at a few African dances you’re likely to encounter and subscribe to once you hit that gym near you. 



It’s one of the most common forms of dance that most gyms and dance classes take up during workouts. It’s of Afro-Brazilian origin and primarily has to do with simple forward-backward steps, hip movements, mobility, and your body rocking to a rhythm. Samba is known for increasing energy levels, boosting blood circulation and cardio, enhancing flexibility and like most dances, keeping the memory in check. Fitday Editor writes that “Using samba dance to improve your body is a great way to keep your workouts fresh and lively. By doing this, you can improve your energy levels during the day, stay in shape and even lose weight.” Exercise doesn’t have to feel like a chore. You don’t have to feel like you’re punishing yourself just so you can climb onto that fitness ladder. Fortunately, Samba’s got you. 


Afro Dance

When it comes to Afro dance or Afrobeats dance or African dance (no single name has yet been used to describe it), cheerfulness, agility, sophistication, rhythmic movements of the body, and enthusiasm are some of the things that come to mind. It is usually associated with the dance forms in most sub-Saharan countries but it has certainly spread throughout the global space. You can see people all the world over displaying Zanku or Shaku Shaku or Kupe in their dance studios or gym centers and you just can’t help dancing along. Afro dance makes for a great workout apart from giving you that much-needed gratification. 


Heels/Stiletto Dance

This is exactly as the name goes. Although having been popularized and evolved in the US and Europe in the previous century, heels dance has in a similar fashion been integrated into African dances where people wear their high-heeled shoes, boogying to afrobeats. Presently, several gyms practice heels dance as part of their workout or physical fitness routines for women. This exercise requires a lot of footwork, subconscious memorization, and recollection of steps, balance, and great posture, among others. The advantages are endless. Besides, picture this: Afro dance in stilettos with afrobeats occupying the background in a gym with everyone grooving to it? Seriously, what could be more exciting than that?


Afro-Contemporary Dance

This is a re-imagination and innovation of a sort. It entails the fusion and connection of various African dances with contemporary or modern dance styles essentially merging the past with the present and future. Africanist and western contemporary moves are all rolled up together to produce an expressive and communicative effect with the body.  

Now that we’ve looked at the above, let’s explore further into the correlation between African dance and fitness and the benefits you stand to reap.  


Physical Benefits of African Dance and Fitness

The human body is so complex and can likewise, be very simple in how its daily biological and physical processes can be affected; the contribution of fitness dancing to these processes and the body’s general wellbeing is to this effect, overwhelming. Dance is life-transforming and taking up African dance sessions in your fitness routine, in essence:

  • Improves your cardiovascular endurance and helps you with your breathing (better lung function here). The physical activities involved effectively contribute to healthier heart rates and general well being regardless of how old or young you are. 



  • Helps your weight management process – you burn fats and excessive lipids in the body as studies have shown, without you even knowing it. You can, for instance, burn 220 calories when you dance in heels. So if you’re looking to shed some weight while having fun along the way, go to that gym near you and sign up for an African dance fitness session. 
  • Provides you better coordination, agility, and flexibility. Apart from the stretches that mostly precede these dance workout sessions, the dancing itself allows you to learn coordination techniques that make you more flexible. Studies have shown that flexible people are more stable, have better posture and balance, and are less prone to injuries and pain.  
  • Gives you stronger bone formation. Take samba for instance. According to the AfroLatino Dance Company, it has been known to facilitate the formation of bones as well as the building of bone density. Besides bone formation, dance helps you fight against for instance, osteoporosis, heart diseases, dementia, and some other brain issues.

Social Benefits of African Dance and Fitness

Dance also has its social benefits in fitness. It is a universal language alongside music and sees beyond ethnic, tribal, and religious differences and social status of people. It is very much obvious that different people meet at the gym on daily basis to participate in fitness dance sessions and the activities have the potential of:

  • Creating an atmosphere of interconnectedness and social bonding. 
  • Providing an effective platform for learning about other people’s cultures and traditional dances. A convenient avenue for socialization among people with similar interests is therefore created. 



Emotional and Psychological Benefits of African Dance and Fitness 

In addition to the above, fitness dancing: 

  • Improves mood, helps people overcome depression, loneliness, tension, stress, and anxiety, and serves as a depression reduction mechanism. Dopamine, endorphin, and other “feel good” chemicals great for your body and brain are released, making you indeed feel good and happy. All these contribute to your having great mental health all day, every day. 
  • Has the power to boost cognitive performance. The ability to reason and make logical intellectual decisions can be significantly improved by fitness dancing. Take the various African dances highlighted above, for example. As the brain functions in an attempt to capture, memorize and recollect all the dance moves and patterns, its cognitive performance is also being highly bolstered. How amazing is that?

On the whole, you don’t necessarily have to expend a whole chunk of resources to keep fit. Just go to that gym you’ve more than once heard African tunes blasting from the windows during workouts. Go there, sign up for an African dance fitness session and enjoy the ride!




Genni Abilock, Benefits of Dance on Mental Health,

Fitday Editor, The Aerobic and Anaerobic Benefits of Samba,

AfroLatino Dance Company, 10 Actual Health Benefits that Come with Dancing Samba Regularly,, October 29, 2015

Sara Lindberg, 8 Benefits of Dance,, May 10, 2019