Thursday, April 24, 2014 · 6:40 a.m.

Line dancing for fitness trend growing in Chattanooga

Weekly classes in Brainerd expanding to accommodate more than 100 students

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Free line dancing exercise classes at the Brainerd Recreation Complex on Tuesday and Thursday nights have been bringing in more than 100 participants. Organizers said the class will soon expand to accommodate twice as many students. (Photo: Staff)

Word is getting out: Line dancing is not what it used to be.

The fun group dance, often seen at nightclubs and wedding receptions, has been making its way from the bar scene to the fitness class as a legitimate form of exercise, which, over time, produces real results.

According to Linedancer Magazine, there are many health benefits to line dancing.

“Line dancing improves stamina, muscle tone and coordination, [and it] is a great stress buster and energy booster. [It is] good for posture, strength, mobility in the lower back and toning calves and thighs. The British Heart Association says it is very beneficial to health and is recommended by doctors. [It] invigorates all the major organs from the brain right down to the toes. Line dancers can cover around five miles of ground in one evening,” the magazine reports.

With roots in country and western and folk traditions, most line dances are fairly simple choreographed sequences of steps repeated by a group of dancers who are in lines or rows and all doing the sequence simultaneously.

Nowadays, line dance music ranges from hip hop and soul to modernized two-step tunes, but fitness instructors say, "If you can walk, you can line dance."

There is no place else in Chattanooga that represents this evolution of soul line dancing into high-energy workouts better than the Brainerd Recreation Complex on Tuesday and Thursday nights.

Join the trend
What: Line dancing exercise class

When: Tuesdays and Thursdays, 6-7 p.m.

Where: Brainerd Recreation Complex, 2010 N. Moore Road

For more information: 423-425-3600

How much: Free

The class started in March of last year and as recently as five months ago had only a dozen participants. Now there are upward of 100 participants at the free class, as can be seen in this video from last week, with the potential to accommodate twice that size once the basketball practice season ends in two weeks and the entire room becomes available.

The class is currently dominated by women, although there are a few men and at times younger children who show up to take the class, now led by Koreen Moore.

"The louder the music, the more fun we have," Moore said.

The hour-long session begins with a few quick stretches before "getting right to it," Moore said. Participants are led through a high-energy series of nine different line dances with two very short breaks.

A recent class featured dances called Collard Greens and Corn Bread, The Wobble, K-Wang Wit It, Same Ole 2-Step, Monkey Feet and the Down South Shuffle.

Denisha Leftwich, Brainerd's recreation specialist who started and taught the class until the day before she delivered her baby last week, said the class will never get old because there are so many line dances to learn. 

"It is such a fun way of working out, and you don't realize how much exercise you are getting out of the class. It is something you can love to do and get fitness out of it," Leftwich said.

Experts agree that dancing for fitness works on many levels with overall benefits for the mind, body and spirit. Learning new dance steps and actively listening to the instructor calling out the steps keep the mind challenged and stressful thoughts at bay. The uplifting nature of dancing in general combined with a group activity is highly social and lifts the spirit. Of course, staying active and moving help keep the heart and body healthy.

MeeMee Johnson of Brainerd has been taking the class for nearly four months. She said it is pretty much the only exercise she is doing currently and that the experience keeps her motivated.

"Everyone should come. There is no age limit. It's just if you can keep up. Basically I'd say as long as you are moving your body it is exercise," Johnson said.

Linda Tooks makes the drive from Jersey Pike to Brainerd twice a week and credits the class for going from a size 8 to a size 6 since starting five months ago.

Tooks and others said the class keeps getting bigger because of the energy and bonds taking place in the room each night. The word of mouth keeps spreading.

"It really is a wonderful thing. I tell my church members, I recruited my sister, my sister-in-law, and they told people, then they told people. So we just got that word of mouth going, and it's a wonderful time!" Tooks said.

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