If you haven't tried belly dancing at least once, you ought to give it a go. What other exercise requires you to dress up in flamboyant skirts, sequined bras, yards and yards of chiffon and loads of jingling jewelry?
Belly dance is, of course, the traditional dance style of the Middle East. It involves various movements of the hips and torso, including circles, shimmies, figure-eights and lifts.
While belly dancing (also called raqs sharki and a number of other names) looks graceful and effortless, it gives you quite a workout that tones the core muscles in your back and abdomen, and also your buttocks and thighs, including the hard-to-work inner thigh. The neck and arms also get a good workout, and belly dance is great for improving overall posture and flexibility.
It's also low-impact, so if you are a little overweight (or pregnant), you don't have to worry about too much strain being put on the joints. In fact, if you are pregnant, belly dancing is excellent preparation for labor – some think that this is why (among other reasons) this dance was originally developed.
It's also great for your self-esteem. Many women have reported feeling better about having more generous hips and thighs after beginning belly dancing. Belly dancing celebrates and emphasizes womanly curves, and the more you have in the bits of you dancing (butt, hips and thighs), the better. Even so, you will tone up muscles in this area and reduce a little if you are carrying more than you should.
If you try it and like it, you may find belly dancing addictive, to the point when you start wearing hip scarves and bangles at every opportunity, and start cramming your wardrobe with veils, circle skirts and stretchy choli tops (as an aside, dancing with a veil is great for toning arms – it may only be light chiffon, but keeping a veil swirling requires a fair bit of effort). You may also get into more advanced moves balancing candles, swords or canes on your head.
You don't have to dance for an audience – just do it for yourself. But it certainly makes a great show to put on for the man in your life!