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KAREN HARDY: DANCE IS GREAT FOR MIND, BODY & SOUL

Karen Hardy, who won Strictly Come Dancing with Mark Ramprakash in 2006 (pictured above) is keen to show that dance not only keeps you fit, it’s also a great stress reliever. And the best thing? Her dance studio in Fulham welcomes those with two left feet with open arms…  

Words: Bethan Andrews

Although still on the rise as a form of everyday fitness, dance has long been associated with a high level of strength, stamina and flexibility. Star of Strictly Come Dancing and ballroom champion, Karen Hardy teaches dance lessons to those wanting a fun form of fitness, but she is passionate about the effects this has on her clients’ wellbeing too.

Ballroom dancing might sound like an extreme way of keeping fit if it’s not something you’ve done from a young age, but Hardy is adamant that it is a great form of exercise for many reasons. ‘These people coming to me for dance lessons are going out to client dinners on evenings, VIP events and are constantly needing to be up on the floor, or using the techniques such as posture that dancing offers,’ explains Hardy. ‘And all they need are a few simple steps.’

The studio also attracts those who just want social interaction and communication, plus they want the health benefits, but delivered in a fun way. One of the main elements of dance fitness is the emotional wellbeing that dancing offers, through the positivity of learning a new skill, incorporating exercise with music, and being confident in yourself and your body. It’s also a huge stress relief too.

Karen Hardy came out of retirement from competitions to begin her Strictly Come Dancing journey in 2005, and it didn't take long for her to lift the Glitterball Trophy, winning with cricketer Mark Ramprakash in 2006

The stars of the current series of Strictly Come Dancing. Karen Hardy came out of retirement from competitions to begin her Strictly journey in 2005 and won with cricketer Mark Ramprakash in 2006

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‘We attract a lot of corporate men, as they like the idea of being able to lead the women in dances,’ she says. ‘Once they have mastered the confidence in our classes, they feel that they can go out and achieve anything. The psychology here is paramount. Dancing allows people to build confidence, test and challenge their mind and offers an alternative to the gym where there is a sense of loneliness and repetition.’

Once you’re holding your core, you then have to focus on holding your whole frame – giving you an entire workout. The Cha-Cha burns 264 to 528 calories. Plus you are always laughing

Stamina builds very fast with dance, which helps people in their busy everyday city life. You can get so much more from a low-level dance class than people realise, as your core is so engaged that you’re working out the whole way through. ‘We work on so many different elements. Once you’re holding your core, you then have to focus on holding your whole frame – giving you an entire workout. The Cha-Cha burns 264 to 528 calories,’ says Hardy. ‘Plus you are always laughing and pushing down with all
your muscles.’

Hardy tells me how people often see dance as a less accessible form of exercise to going to the gym or running, as they believe you have to be of a certain level to start. This, however, is not the case. ‘We built this studio for people with two left feet, it can be for absolute beginners,’ she explains. ‘I’ve been there, done it, but it doesn’t mean that everyone has to be a champion. I love teaching people from the very beginning – it’s beautiful.’

Perhaps the best thing about it, though, is that it’s a form of exercise that can leave the restraints of the gym or a studio. So, when you hit those dance floors this coming Christmas, you’ll be star of the show.

10 The Boulevard, Imperial Wharf SW6 2UB; 020 7731 7316; karenhardystudios.com

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