At one time many people thought that swinging around steel poles onstage was only for strippers. Today, women and men use pole dancing as just another way to get fit. There is even an organization, the International Pole Dance Association, dedicated to getting pole dancing recognized as a legitimate sport.

Indeed, pole dancing is a popular class in established gyms that pride themselves on offering the latest fitness programs. Pole dancing movements work the upper body and core and are an effective method of strength training. In addition, the movements include stretching and dancing, both great ways to develop flexibility, improve posture and tone the body.

“It’s easy to get stuck in a rut when it comes to exercise and healthy eating,” says Nancy L. Naternicola, a physical education expert and author of the book Fitness: Steps to Success. “This is the time to try something new.”

But as with any new exercise, pole dancing comes with associated risk of injury. Says Naternicola, “Be realistic and start with small, short-term goals.”