For Exercise That Moves Bodies And Hearts, Try Soul LIne Dancing : Shots - Health News Research shows that when you add a social component to an exercise plan, you're more likely to stick to it. That's especially true of the steps, turns, beats and fun of soul line dancing.

Soul Line Dancing: Come For The Fitness. Stay For The Friendships

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

OK. I know, I know, you just got up, but it is time to get moving.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CHA CHA SLIDE")

DJ CASPER: Funky. Funky. Everybody clap your hands. Clap, clap, clap, clap your hands.

MARTIN: NPR's Maria Godoy is here to tell us how line dancing with soul can keep you fit.

MARIA GODOY, BYLINE: Soul line dancing is really just choreographed dance moves that you do in a group without a partner.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: (Unintelligible) Right, left, right, left.

GODOY: The soul part comes from the music used like R&B and hip-hop. People sign up for soul line dance classes for all sorts of reasons.

CASSANDRA JACKSON: I do it for exercise, socialization and keeping this body nice and tight. Yes, yes.

GODOY: That's Cassandra Jackson (ph). I met her recently at a line dancing social event at a community recreation center in Washington, D.C. She's been line dancing for about two years now. And in all seriousness, she says it helps her keep up with her grandson.

JACKSON: And it keeps your muscles loose and helps you to be able to take the daily grind with ease.

GODOY: Another dancer, Andrea Powell (ph), says she soul line dances for the exercise and camaraderie.

ANDREA POWELL: I love the people. I love the exercise. It's good for your brain. And it's just so much fun.

GODOY: Then there's Daryl Watson. He's a pastor at a local Baptist church. Everyone calls him the reverend. He says soul line dancing helps him unwind after long days spent ministering to the faithful.

DARYL WATSON: Saving souls is good but I also got to save mine. And part of saving my soul is to be human.

GODOY: Soul line dancing keeps you human?

WATSON: Oh, yeah, keeps me human, keeps me healthy, keeps me in shape and fit.

GODOY: Soul line dancing communities like this have been growing across the United States. People take dance classes at local churches, gyms and community rec and senior centers. They adopt team names like The Sassy Steppers or The Addicts.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Good job. Good job.

GODOY: But can something this fun really count as exercise? Researcher Terri Lipman says absolutely.

TERRI LIPMAN: Yes, it's dance. Yes, it's fun. But it is efficient in improving cardiovascular health and providing activity.

GODOY: Lipman is a professor in the School of Nursing at the University of Pennsylvania. She says, in general, dance not only boosts cardiovascular health, it improves mobility and memory, and it helps with depression. Since 2012, she's been running a community soul line dance program called Dance for Health in West Philadelphia. And because soul line dancing is so enjoyable, she says people tend to stick to this exercise program for the long haul.

LIPMAN: When you think about exercise and you think about - I go to the gym, and no one really looks very happy in the gym.

GODOY: But when you go to a soul line dancing class...

LIPMAN: Everyone is smiling. There's such enjoyment that's part of music and part of rhythm, and it is almost innate.

GODOY: And unlike, say, running on a treadmill, line dancing is an inherently social activity. Lipman says her research shows it's that sense of community that ultimately keeps people coming back.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: Get on here. That's what's (unintelligible).

GODOY: That's certainly what I experienced at the soul line dance party in D.C.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: Let's go.

GODOY: Though the gathering is multigenerational - I spot a toddler dancing with her mother - though many of the dancers tend to be women of middle age or older. Many have been taking classes with the same folks for years. In between dances, they catch up and socialize.

(LAUGHTER)

GODOY: I ask people what drew them. Over and over, I heard answers like this one from Marcia Lee (ph).

MARCIA LEE: This is straight family. This is so much family. They just take you and love you from the very beginning. Y'all going to make me cry.

GODOY: Or we could just dance. Maria Godoy, NPR News.

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