Shuffle aside Zumba, the world’s first tap dancing fitness fusion has arrived and is set to take the world by storm. The brainchild of Australian sisters Annie, Fiona, Rachel and Katherine Johnson, TAPfit is a first- to-market exercise program using patented technology, which promises a total workout for both the mind and body.
Former Australian tap dancing representatives, the Johnson sisters have dedicated the past three years to crafting the program alongside a team of medical, diet and exercise professionals. Inspiration for the fitness device first struck when they observed remarkable results while teaching a little girl with cerebral palsy how to tap dance.
“No other dance schools would take Breanna as a student, so we offered to run personal lessons as a fun alternative to therapy, and work towards improving her muscle strength and coordination,” Fiona said.
“Breanna’s family and physiotherapist couldn’t believe that within just 6 months of starting lessons, she was able to ride a bike for the first time without training wheels.
“We’re thrilled to hear Breanna has made great progress with her coordination, balance and self-confidence, and is now actively involved in school musicals and excelling in sport, particularly athletics where she is now Queensland Champion for the 100m sprint in her division.”
Armed with this anecdotal evidence, Fiona and her siblings approached Professor Meg Morris from La Trobe University who had previously conducted studies on the benefits of tango and Irish dancing for Parkinson’s patients. From these studies, researchers gleaned that rhythmical dancing could have positive effects on walking speed, balance, motor impairment and endurance after attending just 2 classes per week for 10 weeks.
In a first-of-its kind trial, researchers at La Trobe University have recently explored the correlation between tap dancing and improved motor performance, life quality and wellbeing in individuals of varying movement abilities, with findings due to be released later this year.
“The tap dancing studies are really exciting because it’s the first time we have been able to observe and measure the therapeutic benefits of this dance genre. We are only just beginning to understand the intricacies of the human brain and studying the way in which the brain controls dancing tells us a great deal about how we acquire motor skills,” Professor Morris said.
“By extending our existing body of work on movement dynamics, we will gain a better understanding of how people with disability can transform their mobility whilst enjoying the experience!”
The TAPfit prototype has received high accolades from an international audience, with the sisters being recognised within the Top 5 inventors globally at the 2013Electronic Retailers Association Convention in the USA.
TAPfit has launched in Australia, and is due to launch in the USA and Canada within the next 6 months.
The Johnson sisters share their top five tips for enhanced physical and mental health and wellbeing:
- Move everyday
Only 10 minutes of moderate exercise can speed up your metabolism for an hour or longer. With many of us leading sedentary lifestyles, it is important to be as active as possible throughout the day. If you struggle to find the time for a more structured workout, try parking your car further from your destination and walking, take the stairs instead of the lift or squeeze in a few squats before bed. Incremental physical activity can make a big difference! One more thing – exercise shouldn’t be tedious. Choose a fitness style that you love and you will be more likely to stick to a regime and get the results you desire.
- Nourish your body with whole foods
Eating foods that are closest to their natural state means that we are fuelling our bodies with essential nutrients that cannot be obtained through packaged or processed foods. Wholefoods offer a rich source of vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, fibre and antioxidants to keep your immune system strong and reduce the risk of disease. Increase your intake of wholefoods by incorporating more fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains, beans and legumes, nuts and seeds, fish, poultry and red meat into your diet. You are sure to find a bounty of wholefoods at your local farmer’s market, fresh-food aisle at the supermarket or health-food store.
- Learn a new skill
Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. As with other parts of your body, it is important to also keep your mind active by learning a new skill or taking up a hobby. When you engage in unfamiliar activities you can stimulate your brain, sharpen your thinking, reduce mental fatigue and improve memory. Mind training isn’t limited to crossword puzzles and trivia questions – there are plenty of much more entertaining options like photography, art, dance, sewing or music classes.
- Take time out
It is important to factor a bit of ‘me time’ into each day and treat yourself to regular breaks. Just 30 minutes of relaxation a day can provide myriad benefits for physical and mental wellbeing, such as reduced stress and anxiety, decreased blood pressure, and enhanced mood and concentration. Don’t feel guilty about letting people know that you don’t want to be disturbed. Switch off technology, listen to music, read a book, watch a film, meditate, have a warm bath or practice deep breathing – whatever works to help you unwind!
- Dance like nobody’s watching
Aerobic dance programs such as TAPfit are a fabulous form of self-expression and a fun way to keep fit. There are so many different styles of dance to try – from traditional ballet, ballroom and tap, to contemporary hip-hop, belly dancing and pole dancing. No matter your age or whether you prefer to dance solo, with a partner or in a group setting, you can reap the health benefits of dance and improve your strength, fitness, coordination, flexibility, confidence and self-esteem.
For more information or to purchase TAPfit, visit tapfit.com
Stacey has 10 years experience in both print and digital media. Her many roles in the Australian media industry include being a freelance web editor for several women’s lifestyle magazines, editor and social media manager for leading fashion and beauty website, 2threads.com and deputy chief sub editor of madison magazine. She has also worked on The Sydney Morning Herald, The Sun-Herald and the Canberra Times.