Dancing a fusion of traditional dances and aerobic exercises is a fun way to start exercising writes Nadia Badarudin.

AMERICAN dance choreographer and pop singing sensation of the 1990s Paula Abdul once advised her fans to dance to keep fit.

Dancing is a great and fun form of exercise, particularly for those who are keen to start exercising but baulk at the idea.

According to health website WebMD, dancing is a total body workout in which a 30-minute dance class burns between 130 and 250 calories — about the same as jogging.

It says that dancing mainly targets areas such as the core muscles, arms, legs, glutes and back.

Dancing is a fun form of fitness for those who are keen to start exercising but baulk at the idea. (Picture by NSTP/Nurul Syazana Rose Razman)

Options are aplenty for a dance-inspired workout, ranging from traditional and ballroom dance to hip-hop, salsa and flamenco.

If you are thinking of getting fit on your dancing feet or just eager to find alternatives from your zumba routines, how about trying a fusion of traditional dances and aerobic exercises?

Yazid Abdul Rani (third from left) created Zafina to encourage people to exercise together with their families. (Picture by NSTP/Nurul Syazana Rose Roslan)


If a fitness routine combined with a traditional Malay dance is up your street, Zafina’s zapin dance workout should be on your must-do list.

Zafina stands for “Zapin Fitness Nasional” and it is basically a combination of zapin and modern fitness routines, says Zafeena Fitness Academy founder and managing director Yazid Abdul Rani.

The experienced fitness instructor created the fusion workout in 2016.

It’s a hit especially among fitness enthusiasts who work out together with family members, regardless of race and age.

Yazid’s children, Muhammad Zaim, 19, Nur Dina, 14, Nur Do’a, 10, and Muhammad Zyad, 8, have been exercising to Zafina.

“Zafina is a total body workout that involves the dynamic choreography and intensity of zapin. It contains basic zapin steps like ‘acah mengail’, ‘sauh’ and ‘belanak’ that require hand, footwork and body co-ordination.

Those steps are then improvised with standard fitness routines such as jumping jack and squats.

“Despite the fitness aspect, there is also the cultural yet practical aspect in terms of attire.

“Our instructors wear kain sampin with their sports attire. However, it is optional for those attending the class.

“We have young certified instructors, as young as 10, who can show you the steps,” he adds.

There are about 50 songs in the Zafina workout playlist. They range zapin and folk songs to evergreen hits of Alleycats or The Flybaits and even current chart toppers.

The songs are arranged accordingly to suit the alternating intensity levels throughout the session.

Zafina is suitable for parents to get their kids to exercise in a fun way.


Each session focuses on improving the 3S, namely stamina, strength and suppleness.

“Similar to a standard workout, each session is about an hour and has the elements of cardio, endurance, strength and flexibility,“ says Yazid.

He stresses that ultimately, Zafina is a fun way to get the whole family, especially the children, to get fit together.

“Zafina helps strengthen the family bond,” he says.

BhangraJam founder and fitness instructor Kirenjit Singh showing the moves to his class. (Picture by NSTP/Aziah Azmee)


For intensity and a total body workout with Bollywood music, opt for the BhangraJam.

BhangraJam is a combination of the traditional Bhangra dance as well as aerobic exercises, says its founder and fitness instructor Kirenjit Singh.

Kirenjit, a Bhangra dancer since he was 15, has been teaching the fusion workout since 2005. Hailing from the Punjab region in India and Pakistan, Bhangra is a traditional celebratory folk dance and music performed to welcome the spring harvest festival or Vaisakhi.

“BhangraJam is an interval training exercise that alternates between high and low-intensity activities. Being a dancer and fitness instructor, I find that the elements of the vigorous traditional dance and styles blend well with aerobic exercises. And that’s how the idea came about,” says Kirenjit, who is also the manager and dancer of a Seremban-based Bhangra dance group called Rebel.

A standard BhangraJam workout usually takes an hour, which comprises 45-minute solid exercises as well as warming-up and cooling down.

For the traditional dance steps, the workout involves a lot of hand and leg movements and use of core muscles. Participants move to the beat of a single drum called ‘dhol’ (apparent in Bhangra or Bollywood songs remixes such as Mauja-mauja, Bole Chudiyan and Say ‘shava-shava’).

About seven to 10 songs will be played non-stop in a session, with the playlist arranged accordingly to fit the alternating periods of high and low-intensity activities.

The workout includes traditional Bhangra steps such as single and double “lehria” and “tari jhummer” which involve mostly leg and hand movements and coordination.

“Sometimes the choreographed moves require you to stand on one leg while raising the leg up in the air. Participants need to balance and use muscles especially those on the legs, chest and shoulders.

“It can be strenuous but I’ve simplified the steps so they are not as intensive as the original dances.

“The Bhangra beat is fun to dance to and the rhythms trigger happy hormones.

“When I introduce a new song, I’ll explain its meaning so that my class can relate to it,” he says.

“To set a positive mindset to exercise, I will encourage them to happily shout ‘Brruuaahhh!’ during the exercise session. It’s a Punjabi way of saying ‘I’m satisfied’. It works all the time,” he adds.

Kirenjit Singh says BhangraJam has many physical and emotional benefits. (Picture by NSTP/Aziah Azmee)


From a fitness point of view, BhangraJam has many benefits. It burns at least 300 calories (depending on individual) and its impact is similar to about an hour on a treadmill.

It also improves breathing and sleeping quality as well as reduces weight and stress, adds Kirenjit.

However, he advises beginners to inform the instructor if they have (former or existing) ankle or knee injuries or even back pain.

“They can still follow the routine but they must take it easy on the pacing,” he says.

What if one has two left feet when it comes to dancing?

“Don’t worry. You’ll get the hang of it after a while. The most important thing is that you exercise and in a fun way too,” says Kirenjit.

So what are you waiting for? Sign up for a class. Put on your sports shoes, get up and dance!

[email protected]

To contact Zafina Fitness: www.zafina.com

To contact Bhangrajam: www.bhangrajam.com


Just like other types of exercises, wearing the right comfortable attire is important when you dance to keep fit.

- Pick a pair of sports shoes with proper grip and support.

- For BhangraJam, it is recommended that you choose a slip-resistant pair that comes with circle-grip outsole.

- If you opt for Zafina, note that wearing the kain sampin is optional.

- Follow your own pace while sweating it out. It’s a dance after all. So have fun and don’t forget to smile!

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