Thursday, May 24, 2018
Health

Prancercise is YouTube's hot viral workout — but does it work?

For Joanna Rohrback, exercise should be about having fun.

That's what she had in mind in December when she posted a semi-professional video to YouTube featuring a skipping workout she created in 1989.

The 61-year-old Coral Springs woman had no idea that nearly six months after she uploaded Prancercise, the internet would explode with curiosity and media attention.

"There's so much misinformation out there," she said. "People are saying untrue things that I can't make sense of."

Chief among the misconceptions, according to Rohrback: Prancercisers have to wear tight clothing or ankle weights to take part.

In the five-minute demo video, Rohrback works out to cheesy '80s rock instrumentals, wearing stretch pants and a set of ankle weights, but she insists it's not mandatory. Four different steps are demonstrated, all variations on moving side to side and forward to create complete locomotion as you skip down the path. The most different may be the "box," which adds a shadowboxing technique reminiscent of a schoolyard slap fight.

"I think this workout is more for older people," she said.

That hasn't stopped its widespread embrace — albeit, for mockery — by scores of young people posting videos and Vines of themselves rocking out to Prancercise. As of Thursday, nearly 6.5 million people have viewed the original video. Rohrback hired an agent after calls started flooding in offering airtime on Inside Edition and Today, as well as dozens of internet shows. U. S. Women's National Team soccer players Alex Morgan and Sydney ­Leroux hit the web prancing in a training facility. E! Fashion Police co-host Kelly Osborne tweeted out her love for Rohrback's video, and in the same spirit as February's Harlem Shake meme, dozens of YouTube users have posted videos of themselves getting their Prancercise on.

But as the hype swirls, the question remains: Can you really get fit by skipping to music?

Local strength and conditioning coach Steve Harrison said it's possible, but only if you're going from absolutely no activity to showing off your moves to neighbors.

"Whenever you prescribe a new workout regime you want to make sure that risk doesn't outweigh the reward," said Harrison, 40, co-owner of Tampa Sports Academy. "(Prancercise) isn't a high-risk endeavor."

If Prancercising is what it takes to get you out of your sedentary lifestyle — and you don't mind looking like an attention-seeker — Prancersise away, he said.

But after your body adjusts to movement, you'll need an increase in intensity to continue getting results.

"The activity essentially works a bit of everything — a full-body workout. There's even triple extension, in theory," Harrison said. "In practice, it's far from dynamic activity.

Rohrback admits that she's always been slender and developed the workout 24 years ago only to increase her fitness. Her previous career included social work, real estate, sales and ­facilitating a food-addiction group.

She was walking with ankle weights, got into her music and started moving side to side rhythmically, she said. The rest is history.

Off and on, she's taught others to Prancercise and even entered 5K runs with groups. "It was more like 5 miles instead of 3 because moving side to side, you cover a lot more ground," she said.

U.S. News & World Report turned to lecturer Charles Platkin, of the CUNY School of Public Health at Hunter College in New York City, for raw numbers on Prancercise's effectiveness.

In the article, he says Prancercise burns roughly as many calories as walking slowly while holding something (4.2 calories per minute), but less than walking briskly (7 calories a minute).

But to Rohrback, if you're counting calories, you're missing the point. "If you're counting calories to determine how much you're burning and how much you're eating, you're still going to crave the foods you want and can over eat," she said. "Exercise should be fun. Your diet should keep you satiated so don't have food cravings."

If you're not eating well, of course, Prancercise might not work for you. "It should be holistic," Rohrback said.

     
 
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