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Funk Your Way To Fitness And Never Hit The Gym


The Problem Of Overfunkification

James Brown has a problem.

He clearly lays it out in the song It's Too Funky In Here. Even the title tells you what you need to know about his situation, which is growing more dire by the minute:

It is too funky where he is.

This is tragic in the Shakespearean sense, for James Brown cannot see the role he is playing in this vicious cycle. It is too funky where he is, and he needs to tell us about it through the power of song. Yet through the simple act of doing so he sets off a disastrous positive feedback loop; as the song gets funkier and funkier, James Brown feels more compelled to sing about it. Even the solutions he proposes, such as opening a window, watering down the bass, cleaning up the guitar sound, and using a little air freshener under the drum, have the opposite of the desired effect.

As the song fades to silence the listener is left stunned, humbled, and awe-struck. Just HEARING about James Brown's situation of overfunkification has left the listener's environment dramatically funkier than it was before. Unanswered questions hang in the silence: If it is this funky right here, what must it have been like where James Brown was? How did he survive? What happens when a place becomes too funky?

Not To Worry

Most of us don't need to worry about overfunkification, even if we were to devote our entire lives to becoming as funky as possible. Precious few reach such an elite level of funkiness and the fact that we know the names of people like James Brown, George Clinton, and Prince Rogers Nelson speaks to their rarity. There are no funk enhancing drugs, and not a single person has ever been sanctioned for funk doping. Alcohol doesn't enhance funk, only self-delusion. Therefore, I believe it is not only safe but highly beneficial to increase one's funkiness through the power of dance.

Get Your Back Up Off The Wall

Let me be clear right from the start: I am not a trained dancer, nor am I genetically gifted to be funky. I am tall, rather awkward, and for years was inclined to be a wallflower. Whatever funk I have picked up has come about through attending wedding receptions, observing those who are funkier than I, and using funky songs and environmental factors to turn on dormant funk genes. To further illustrate, here are some of the compliments my dancing has generated:

  • I can tell from that dance floor overbite that you really get into it!

  • Hey, you have amazingly sharp elbows!

  • Wow, are you okay?

Relax everybody, I'm better than okay, I'm dancing! Once people get to know me, they realize to their chagrin that calling the paramedics was completely unnecessary, and that I am really just engaging in one of the most enjoyable forms of exercise known to humankind.

If You Don't Hit the Gym, Hit the Dancefloor

Like the aforementioned James Brown song, the title above says it all. There is nothing wrong with disliking going to the gym. They are usually funky in the wrong way. Instead of the shake-your-booty type of funk, gyms have the I-hope-that's-not-ringworm type of funk. Even for those of us who do like going to the gym, it usually feels like work. Not so with dancing. I'm consistently surprised how much time has passed when I see the clock. And you don't even need to go anywhere, all you need is a song and a kitchen or living room. Dance like only the cat is watching! Close your eyes and dance like literally no one is watching! You can clean up the broken dishes and furniture later.

What Does the Research Say?

Personally, I don't think too much about research on dancing, and I don't really care how many calories it burns. I do it because it's fun. All the same, I was curious is out there. Here is an article about a study done in the UK that suggests dancing may burn more calories in 30 minutes than running, cycling, or swimming.

Of course, intensity is the big variable here. Zone 3 cycling is going to beat 30 minutes of junior high slow dancing just like 30 minutes of breakdancing is going to beat 30 minutes of leisurely sidestroke in the rec center pool. Still, it is interesting food for thought, especially if those other forms of exercise feel like a chore.

Try It Right Now

Open a window and limber up those elbows, it's time to funkify your immediate surroundings. And don't worry about James Brown. He spent decades building up his funk tolerance and he will be just fine, despite the concerning nature of his predicament. If you don't believe me, if doubtful questions hang in the air when the song is over, just hit replay and there he is again, resolute in the face of funkversity.

I've pasted the video again right here, but feel free to use any music that might make you want to move your body. It could be Bavarian Yodeling, there are no wrong answers here as long as it gets you going.

As a physical therapist, I believe movement is one of the healthiest things a person can do. I also believe we should broaden our concept of what exercise is. It doesn't have to take the form of Olympic Weightlifting or high intensity interval training. You don't have to go to a gym filled with machines and mirrors and people in backward baseball hats. It can take the form of what you find most appealing. It can be a game. It can involve funk, classical, or polka music. So, if you want to learn a specific style of dance but feel like you need a little help from an expert then reach out and contact...someone other than me. If you need a little help getting past an injury or utilizing your elbows on the dance floor, then I'm your guy.

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