Strictly Come Dancing is back on the small screen and millions of us are fox trotting, tango-ing, waltzing and Salsa-ing our way to the sofa. Or are we?
According to ROSALINA LIONETTI there is something better than watching celebs undergoing the punishing regime of daily workouts, wearing costumes that out-sparkle glitter balls and being verbally assassinated by cruel judges in the name of entertainment. And that is actually getting out of the armchair and learning to D-I-Y (dance it yourself?).
You've heard it before: exercise more and eat less to stay fit and healthy. Gyms are great - for about two months of the year; January and February. After that there's always an excuse to steer clear of the place followed by a state of denial that completely ignores the fact that money is seeping out of your account every month for absolutely no reason.
But there is another way to stay trim - Salsa dancing
When I first took up Salsa I looked like Bambi as she tried to walk for the first time on ice - without the endearing qualities of the cartoon character. But like any new venture it takes time, perseverance, practice and patience. You won't get it in one lesson.
So why bother?
Lots of reasons. Salsa dancing is a fabulous way to stay trim. We may be in winter but before you know it you'll have booked the holiday and will already be dreading wearing a bikini. Shoppping for one is a traumatic time, when we realise that all those chocolate treats we've consumed were not such a great idea. But you can do something about it that won't cost a fortune.
Salsa dancing helps you get into bikini-fit shape ladies, while having fun. You can burn, on average, 400 calories in an hour of salsa. If you don't believe me you can consult the Calorie Dance Burner Chart (yes it does exist).
It's a great way to meet new people and you will gain in self-confidence.
If you're already coupled-up then it can be a hobby you both enjoy but be prepared to share your partner (in a strictly non-sexual way of course). Don't get jealous when your beloved dances with someone else - you'll get them back at the end of the lesson - at which time you will be able to dance with them and practice your new moves together. But remember the Salsa etiquette rule book and don't hog your partner.
Here is a word of warning for the ladies. Like all dancing that involves couples, you must leave your bra-burning attitudes at the door and be prepared to let the man lead. That's a difficult thing for me to say but the man does have to lead and you must let him.
At the beginning I found myself inadvertently trying to lead myself. This rendered me unpopular and for a time men avoided me: I could feel myself labelled 'the crazy lady' who wouldn't be led. It was all too much for my independent spirit to take. But once you forget the fact that women have been subjected to thousands of years of injustice and inequality at the hands of a patriarchal society and remember that a couple of hours a week won't make a whole lot of difference, you will relax into the moves and enjoy, I assure you.
If you really enjoy it, you can attend a Salsa boot camp. This is more for the ladies and consists of a day of intense training. Don't despair, there isn't a sequin-clad woman at the front of the class with a whistle screaming "Drop and give me twenty Suzy Qs!" (that's a special salsa-step for all of you, as yet, uninitiated Salsa virgins). Instead, you will spend the day learning the spins, arm-styling techniques and footwork. Great fun.
You will also become a couple of inches taller. Really. Posture is key in dancing - I used to do ballet, tap and modern when I was younger and, like many, I regret giving it up. (Sometimes I think, had I kept at it, that I could have been Darcy Bussell although my mother assures me that, having had all the grace and poise of Nelly the Elephant, that would never have been the case.)
But back to Salsa and those extra inches; dancing is a wonderful way to improve your posture by learning the correct technique. With a straight back you will grow inches in seconds, guaranteed.
And last but not least, put your hand-held brain training equipment away and step away from the sofa onto the dance floor because dancing can actually improve your memory. I won't go into the science of it, partly because I don't know any, but by memorising dance patterns you're actually strengthening parts of the brain. True.
So there you go. Get your dancing shoes on and get yourself down to a salsa venue today - and let's dance!