Why Pole Dancing Is A Better Workout Than You Think

For most people, the words 'pole dancing' conjure up some pretty specific images. Most of those mental images probably involve glitter, sequins, and sky high heels clicking along to the beat as music pounds. And while there is nothing inherently wrong with glitter, sequins, or sky high heels, the glitz tends to distract people from one very important fact: pole dancing is hard.

Although most people associate pole dancing with strip clubs, the same moves can be seen on the stages of shows like Cirque du Soleil. Felix Cane, a two-time pole dancing world champion, was a performer for the group's Zoomanity show, and had an interview with CirqueInsider back in 2011. She explained that when she started dancing it was extremely frowned upon, but as more people became aware of what it takes to be an exotic dancer, the public perception changed.

Cane wasn't exaggerating. Far from being limited to strip joints and party busses, pole dancing has become a fitness movement in its own right. It is known as pole fitness and the term covers a range of styles. From the overtly sexy, to the downright acrobatic, there is a style out there for just about anyone. It's even become popular enough that teachers can seek accreditation through the Pole Fitness Alliance, giving students even more confidence in their instructors. And there are plenty of students.

Heart and soul

Amanda Eva Cumberbatch, owner of Soul Pole & Fitness Studio in Springfield, Massachusetts, started out as one of those students. She spoke to Bodybuilding in 2020 and explained that she fell in love with the practice after learning from another trainer. Eventually she opened a studio of her own. Part of the appeal, she says, is that pole dancing affects how people see themselves. "Pole allows you to build a completely different type of relationship with yourself." According to Cumberbatch, pole dancing increases a person's awareness of their own body. It engages many hard-to-work muscles and teaches students to breathe into the movements.

And there's even more to it than that. A 2019 report published in the Journal of Strength Conditioning and Research found that an advanced 60 minute pole dancing class qualified as moderate-intensity cardio. The study also found that if performed for a minimum of two and a half hours each week, pole dancing hit the threshold for exercise that improves and protects heart health. For comparison, the World Health Organization lists general dancing, construction such as roofing or painting, and moving loads up to about 44 pounds, as well. These activities require more effort than average and "noticeably accelerate the heart," according to WHO guidelines.

Pole dancing is a fun whole-body workout that puts people in touch with the way their body is moving. Plus, it's great cardio. You don't even need the sequins, glitter, or heals. They're just a bonus.