We all know that workout fads come and go the same way that diets do, but sometimes one comes around that seems to have real staying power. I think that NIA is one of them.

NIA is not to be confused with any of these: National Institute on Aging, National Intelligence Agency, National Indoor Arena, National Imaging Associates, etc… (Wow – there are a lot of them!) but instead refers to a new form of dance-based aerobic exercise. Of course, it’s an acronym as well, standing for either Non-Impact Aerobics or Neuromuscular Integrative Action.

So what exactly is it?
NIA incorporates dance, healing and martial arts together into one holistic aerobic exercise. The premise of NIA is to “dance within your body,” and develop more awareness about your physical presence. Classes are done barefoot to engaging music, and can be adapted to different skill and ability levels very easily.

It works on the principle that there are certain ways your body wants to move, has been designed to move, and incorporating these into a mind-body movement series that both exercises and energizes you.

It may sound a little “airy-fairy” but at its root, it is an exercise that caters to all skill levels and ages, and looks like a lot of fun.

How does it Work?
NIA uses 52 different principles and movements that are divided into different “belts.” These belts are levels of skill, similar to the ranking system in Martial Arts. You start out with White and move your way towards a Black belt of expertise.

Classes are communal, and generally lead by an instructor who teaches the different movements and the meanings behind them. Each of the principles is customizable to your own skill and fitness level.

Who does it?
People are really loving NIA, and you’ll find everyone from children to elderly men participating. Because the goal of NIA is to give people more of a sense of personal empowerment and competence, the types of people drown to it varies widely. Sometimes there are even corporate training events using the principles of NIA to increase employee performance and satisfaction!

Dancing, although it may be tons of fun. can have side effects, and it’s important to have a good understanding of them, as well as the misconceptions surrounding dancing and health. Crabby McSlacker over at Cranky Fitness recently published a great article about Dancing for Exercise and I urge you to check it out! Also, always make sure to wear appropriate shoes and sportswear – you want to be comfortable and well supported while dancing your heart out.

There are NIA classes and instructors all over the world, so do a quick Google search to find out if there is one near you! If you do practice NIA, we’d love to hear about your experience!

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