The first thing you think of when you think of pole dancing probably isn't "a good workout." Yet despite the practice's somewhat sketchy origins, the fitness community has begun to embrace it as a form of exercise, with some proponents even suggesting that it should become an Olympic sport! In fact, it may just be fun alternative to your current exercise to use on phase 3 of the 123Diet!

This fast-growing practice draws on acrobatics and gymnastics, and it's about way more than looking sexy. While some practitioners do choose to focus on the form's sensual elements, others treat it more like a sport, using difficult routines to express their physical prowess. Still others treat it more like an art form, using its theatrical aspects to create emotionally moving routines.

Pole dancing can let you burn up to 500 calories in a one hour session, comparable to other aerobic activities. Since it involves lifting your entire body weight for extended periods of time, the practice also tends to use a variety of muscles, particularly those in your upper body, core and thighs. Thus, depending on the intensity of your routine, it can also provide both heart-pumping cardio and muscle-building resistance training.

These two aspects combined could give you some huge weight loss benefits, since building up muscle mass can increase your BMR (basal metabolic rate). Women who pole dance regularly may also experience less pain during pregnancy and childbirth because of the strong back and abdominal muscles they've built up.

The dance aspect of pole dancing can also help you improve your coordination and rhythm. This can help you develop better body awareness, balance, and posture, which can help you reduce your clumsiness. Pole dancing can also improve your grip, lowering your risk of repetitive strain injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome, and it may help spare you from other injuries by increasing your flexibility

Additionally, pole dancing puts less stress on your joints than running and other forms of traditional aerobic exercise, and some women prefer the moderately toned look they get from working with only their own body to the bulky look they can get from lifting heavy weights.

Pole dancing also has the benefit of being fun and engaging for people who don't find traditional exercise stimulating, and it boasts a vibrant and supportive community. Plus, though the pole dancing industry and community is women-dominated, the sport is in no way limited to women. In fact, the first modern "pole dancers" were actually men, playing a traditional Indian sport called mallakhamb that involved dancing around a wooden pole!

The sport also isn't just for the young folks. For instance, 67 year old pole dancer Greta Pontarelli holds the title of world champion in pole dancing's Over 40 division and is still competing internationally!

Finally, many women who pole dance have found it a great stress reliever and an enormous ego boost. Some have found it sexually liberating and empowering, and others find that they are more physically confident because of their newly toned body.

It also provides women with a sense of accomplishment by allowing them to master difficult moves and become more skillful at their craft. As opposed to exotic dancing, which objectifies women in the service of the male gaze, pole dancing as a female driven sport focuses on the amazing things the body can do.

While you may find pole dancing easier if you have experience in other sports or forms of exercise, you don't need any particular training to start. You should, however, probably begin by working with an instructor rather than trying it at home, since the sport can be dangerous without proper training. It may be an unconventional way of improving your fitness, but what do you have to lose?

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