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5 Reasons You Should Try a Pole Fitness Class

BY: Mel Kassel |

When she started teaching pole fitness classes in California 12 years ago, Sedusa Studios owner Carol Whitsett would get eye rolls from people who didn't understand her business. Rashida Hobbs, owner of Pole'itcians Fitness Studio in Texas, received an even more extreme reaction: "When I first opened, they actually stopped me from getting my certificate of occupancy because they [thought I was] trying to have some underground club."

Luckily, the pole fitness studio has since become much more mainstream, and pole dancing fitness classes are now offered at many gyms. The physical benefits of the workout are undeniable, but its emotional benefits can be even more profound. Still not convinced? Read on to discover 5 reasons you should try a pole fitness class.

1. There's a Pole Studio to Fit Every Personality

Some students are interested in pole dancing's sensual side, while others are in it mainly for the physical benefits, and, luckily, there are studios out there that cater to these preferences. Rashida's studio, for example, emphasizes pole fitness. Her classes are ACE certified, they don't typically involve high heels, and she considers them to be more of a workout than a dance performance. "I think, within the next eight years—if not sooner—[pole fitness] will be in the Olympics," she said.

Carol's studio, however, has a different dogma—and a lot of high heels. She compared pole dance to ballet, saying, "You do ballet to enchant a prince; you pole-dance to seduce your lover. Both [involve] telling a story with your body; both are athletic." Though Sedusa does have pole-fitness classes on its schedule, its focus is on choreography, storytelling, and learning to embrace your sultry side.

Each type of venue has its advantages, so you just need to gauge where you feel more comfortable. Cleanliness should be a commonality in all of the studios you look at, though, and it's best to find one where every student is assigned to her own pole.

2. It's a Great Cardio Workout

Like any dance routine, you can expect to work up a sweat and build cardiovascular endurance in your pole dancing fitness classes. The number of calories torched in each class varies widely according to the type of pole dancing (dance vs. workout), and the level of difficulty, but some guides to the workout estimate that students in advanced classes can burn as many as 800 calories an hour.

3. But Also Helps Build Muscle

Looking to gain strength and tone up? Look no further than your local pole fitness studio. "You're getting all the benefits of aerobics and also the hard fitness of weightlifting mixed in one exercise," Rashida said. She's had former weightlifters come to the studio who were "overconfident," only to be surprised by the difficulty of the workout. "You're using all of your muscles at once, [including] the little muscles that normally go neglected."

Even at studios where dance is first priority, you'll build muscle by playing on the pole. And, as Carol explained, you'll learn how to stand straighter. "You'll always be working on posture, posture, posture. … You have to be holding your shoulder blades down, and your chest has to be open." Another unexpected reward? Holding the pole will strengthen your hand grip! "It will make opening jars easier," Carol said.

4. It Has Emotional Benefits Too

Increased confidence is always touted as a benefit of pole dancing, and both Rashida and Carol confirm this. But they also spoke at length about how pole work often constitutes a therapeutic exercise. "Vulnerability is a common term that I use around the studio," Rashida said. During class, she sets aside time for her students to look in the mirror and say affirming statements about their bodies. "I've had women burst out in tears because they've never said they're beautiful or never even thought about it."

Of her studio, Carol said, "It's the only place where [my students] feel no judgement. … It heals something that's inside of them."

5. It's a Great Place to Make Friends

By sharing and letting go of their insecurities, students form a bond that's impossible to get from any other group class. "Women that meet in the pole studio become the best of friends," Rashida said. The experience unites them regardless of where they came from or what they do for a living. "I have exotic dancers, I have attorneys, I have principals and teachers … women from all different walks of life who walk into our studio to learn."

Carol echoed the sentiment. "[My students] come for so many different reasons … [but] the minute you walk out, everyone is excited together."