How to get fit while having fun with swing dancing


We have all been through it. January comes and we cover our cupboards with post-its detailing our best intentions for the New Year: and I bet “get fit” ranks high on most of those lists.

Lack of motivation

I was one of these many people making lists three years ago, and after browsing offers for ferocious looking gyms showing women with perfectly shaped bodies, I felt dispirited.

I’m not exactly unfit: a twenty something Londoner with a desk job and a fairly healthy lifestyle (I cook food at home, only drink a bit and don’t smoke), I was looking for something to improve my cardio and resistance, while not actually feeling like I was working out, and perhaps even have fun. Previous efforts at getting fit were disastrous: wasted money on forsaken gym memberships and turning off all notifications from fitness apps on my phone.

How swing dancing saved me

I was at the pub one night and heard music next door. I peered in, and saw tens of people dancing to the jazzy beats of the band, sweating profusely and actually enjoying themselves. There were big smiles and high fives every time a song finished. Then, slightly out of breath but far from tired, people would clap for the band and get swinging again.

My life changed that night. I joined beginner classes on Tuesdays at The Scolt Head, London, and found out about basic steps, different strands of swing dancing, and met people I still hang out with three years down the line, despite having moved to a different country.

Benefits and drawbacks

Swing dancing gave me confidence in myself and my body, relieved the stress of a busy London life, and most importantly got me fit without me noticing. I now have muscly legs and can run for the bus without my lungs bursting!

But it can be difficult to start with if you’re shy: joining a class and dancing with someone you’ve never met before can be really daunting. Luckily the culture and community surrounding swing dancing are the most welcoming, least competitive I’ve seen: people genuinely love it and want you to love it too, so they’ll do anything to make you feel comfortable and help you out when you’re a beginner.

How to get started and find your perfect swing dancing night

Getting started couldn’t be easier. Swing dancing has become fashionable in the last five years or so, and most major cities will have a few schools.

For the UK, check out Swing Out London, a useful website listing all the lessons and events; or head to Bristol Swing Festival. In Italy, there are schools in Genoa, Rome and Milan amongst others, as well as summer festivals like Senigallia’s Summer Jamboree. There’s a lively scene even in Cape Town, South Africa, and obviously no where is better than the birthplace of swing, New Orleans.

So whether you want to have some fun and meet new people, or you are serious about getting in shape, swing dancing is the answer to all your questions!

Arianna Meschia

After studying English, French and Spanish in my Italian hometown, I graduated in Film & Creative Writing in London, where I landed a job as production manager. 5 years and a lot of stress later, I decided to leave it all behind to volunteer in the Calais refugee camp in France first, and in rural Malawi after. I’m currently motorbiking across Eastern Africa and Europe, trying to make a living from travel writing, experiencing countries and cultures I never knew I would visit, and taking way too many pictures.