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Should Your Next Workout Be a 'Twerk Out'?

Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke perform at the 2013 VMAs. Photo: Neilson Barnard, Getty Images

Not too long ago, you might've assumed "twerking" was something to see your doctor about. But as a controversial performance at this year's MTV Video Music Awards has made clear, the dance craze is now firmly in the mainstream.

When former Disney star Miley Cyrus dropped some of her twerk moves on stage with Robin Thicke while the two performed his hit single, “Blurred Lines,” it made headlines.

In case you haven't been tuned in, "twerking" is a dance in which the dancer violently shakes her (or his) rear end in the direction of an object of desire. In the case of Billy Ray Cyrus’s daughter, the twerk was directed at Alan Thicke’s son, blurring the lines of what some consider good taste. (Watch this gif to get an idea of what twerking looks like.)

As the rhythmic shaking of one’s behind gains popularity with the American public, some are using it as an amusing and creative way to burn calories. After all, many popular dance-based workouts have swept through the country before, including Zumba.

So, it must be asked, can you twerk your way to better, ahem, assets?

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How many calories does twerking burn?

Rey Tabora, a San Francisco-based personal trainer, said yes, yes you can.

He said that any kind of movement is good and that all types of dance, twerking included, are art. 

“They’re using their legs and butt, and when you do that, you increase your metabolism because your heart beats harder,” Tabora said. “If it gets you moving, all the better.”

Caley Bohn, a certified personal trainer and assistant director of a corporate wellness company in Wisconsin, said twerking engages a person’s core, hamstrings, lower back, and, of course, glutes.

Using guidelines from the American College of Sports Medicine, Bohn estimated that "vigorous dancing" burns about eight calories a minute, but twerking burns between five and eight calories per minute for a 150-pound individual.

“Dancing burns calories, but you have to do it regularly to see results,” she said.

So constantly twerking for an hour, should you choose to do so, will burn somewhere between 300 and 480 calories, about the same as 60 minutes of power yoga or an hour of moderate jogging.

There are, of course, safety concerns for those new to the ways of the twerk. Bohn suggests that anyone a bit out of shape consult their physician before starting any physical fitness regimen, especially one that involves a strain on the lower back.

After all, you don't want to explain to your boss that you threw your back out twerking.

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The Roots of Twerking

Twerking is essentially a modern version of an African dance called mapouka, or “dance of the behind.” It, too, involves the rhythmic shaking of the rump while facing away from the audience, but the traditional way is considered much less obscene than the modern variety.

One of the first pop-musical calls to twerk on the dance floor was 1993’s “Do The Jubilee All,” by New Orleans–based hip-hop artist DJ Jubilee. Twerking has recently become so popular that people are uploading YouTube videos of their pets and even babies doing it. 

As a dance trend, it's sure to be short-lived. Remember how cool you were doing the Macarena or the Cupid Shuffle until you saw you grandma doing it? 

But while it's in, go ahead, shake it like you mean it.

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Photo: Neilson Barnard, Getty Images

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