These African Dance Workouts Will Bring So Much Joy to Your Next Cardio Session

Kukuwa Fitness needs to be part of your next at-home cardio workout.

Joyful Afro American woman in sport clothes expressing happiness while doing sports at home
Photo: Getty Images/YakobchukOlena

Whether you're looking to shake up your at-home fitness routine or want to try a workout that doesn't feel like a workout, ACE-certified fitness professional Kukuwa Kyereboah-Nuamah has you covered. Kukuwa Fitness, the African dance workout she founded over two decades ago, has gone viral during the coronavirus pandemic — and for good reason, because it's fun as hell. Even if you won't be a contestant on So You Think You Can Dance anytime soon, you can join millions of people from around the globe who tune in to Kukuwa Fitness's videos and dance it out to a bevy of beats from Malawi, Mali, Ghana, Zimbabwe, Kenya, and Nigeria.

If you usually avoid dance workouts because you're worried about keeping in step or don't think you have much rhythm, Kukuwa Fitness's joyful method will quickly change your mind. Plus, the fact that you're moving and grooving from the comfort of your own living room means you truly have no reason to fret if you miss a move or have trouble keeping up.

A few minutes of checking out the videos on the Kukuwa Fitness YouTube channel or scrolling through the fitness platform's website, and you'll see why so many are shaking their "boombseys" — that's Kukuwa's signature term for booty — to these curated blends of African beats.

Kukuwa Fitness's workouts aren't just, well, workouts. They're also "an education and journey" through "a blend of Central, East, South, West, and North African rhythms," according to the platform's website. The easy-to-follow dance routines will have you moving your arms, waist, legs, and hips, with the occasional squat, punch, or kick to have you "sweating buckets."

Each workout varies in length — so you can customize your sweat session based on how much time you have — but they all feature a warm-up and a cool-down. In addition to providing clear instructions on the choreography, the Kukuwa team gives background on the moves, history, and culture of the music they're bopping to.

There are also specialized workouts, including core-focused sessions and resistance band workouts. But the beauty of Kukuwa (and dance in general) is that it's easy to modify to adapt to your abilities, fitness level, and desired level of impact. Plus, Kukuwa's Mama and Baby Series is perfect for prenatal workouts, those who have recently given birth, or mamas looking to move with their little ones.

Kukuwa Fitness features no shortage of ways for people to move. You can either join the platform's subscription service for $14.99 per month (or $149.99 for the year) — which gives you exclusive access to three new workout videos each week, along with access to Kukuwa's vast library — or you can tune in to the videos on social media, streaming on both Instagram Live and YouTube.

"Our workouts on YouTube are more of an intro for people looking for beginner workouts," Kyereboah-Nuamah tells Shape. "For those who want a more encompassing journey into fitness, they can find that on our streaming platform."

Whether you join Kukuwa Fitness via the subscription or on social media, the instructors' joyful energy is infectious, and you'll find it tough not to smile as you follow along. Dance cardio is ideal if you're not a fan of high-intensity workouts but still want to get your heart pumping. Regardless of your skill level, dancing challenges your body to adapt to fast-paced, high-energy movements. It's also aces for your brain's health: Research suggests that dancing can boost cognitive abilities and keep your memory sharp as you age. What better way to break up quarantine fatigue than by moving your "boombsey?"

Plus, there's no denying that dancing, in general, is a fun way to express yourself, notes Kyereboah-Nuamah. She says she hopes people walk away from her workouts feeling happy, free, "and a deep sense of fulfillment within their body, mind, and soul."

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