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—Image courtesy of Susan Mann

We Tried It: Bokwa

If your New Year's resolution involves getting off the couch, this dance-based workout can help you find your groove. 

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The Mile High City is bursting with ways to tone your tummy (and your thighs, and your biceps). Every month, new fitness studios open—all with methods sworn to revolutionize the way you work out. While they can’t all be the right fit for everyone, it’s worth giving them a try. (Plus, we can never have too many exercises in our repertoire, right?) We’ve decided to explore as many as we can, one by one, to help break down your options—and hopefully help our readers find the workouts that work for them. No more excuses: Your perfect fitness regimen is waiting for you.


Class: Bokwa (pronounced “boh-kwah”)

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Context: South Africa native Paul Mavi Sr. launched the dance-based fitness classes in 2012, and it’s become popular both in the U.S. and abroad. Bokwa’s movements are rooted in steps done to “kwaito,” a South African genre of music that mashes together African beats, house music, hip-hop, and sometimes even reggae. Thanks to the success of Bokwa (mostly overseas, but it’s also found its way back to America), Mavi is now introducing Kwaito Stylz, which involves more technical choreography.

Sweat meter (1-10): 1, but you can make it more high-impact by modifying the moves

Instructor: Susan Mann, long-time Zumba instructor, who has been Bokwa-certified for more than two years

Format: You’ll be doing combinations similar to those you’d find in a dance class, but many are designed to be simple. For instance, in the most basic step, called a “one and one,” you’ll walk forward with your right foot, then your left, and kick your right foot forward on the next step. Then you’ll go backward, this time starting with your left foot and following with your right before jumping up and down on your toes twice. Expect a lot of walking, bouncing, and hand gestures; to let you know the next move, instructors will give a hand signal that corresponds to American Sign Language movements. (They’ll also say it out loud and some venues even have TVs where it’s posted.) Many of the moves correspond to a letter or number; imagine tracing an “L” or a zero with your feet.

What it’ll (allegedly) do: This is a cardio-based workout, so it’ll blast fat—particularly in your calves because of all the bouncing. Mann says each class burns about 400 to 600 calories.

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Why it works: If you don’t trust your FitBit, Bokwa is more proof that simply getting up and walking around (and occasionally bouncing, punching, and kicking) can begin to tone your body. Instead of sitting for an hour, you’re moving—simple as that.

What you’ll need: Just you!

Where it’s offered: The Southwest Family YMCA off Sheridan Boulevard and Hampden Avenue on Thursdays from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. (The Schlessman Family YMCA in University Hills recently re-opened after a multimillion-dollar renovation; check out that location for more innovative group classes.)

Price: Memberships range from $25 to $76 a month, plus a one-time join fee of $50 (adults) and $75 (families), but you can request a one-day guest pass for free online.

Favorite moves: Phezulu, which is loosely translated to “up” or “above” in Zulu. You choose your own moves for three counts, then punch toward the left, then the right and finally do four knee raises while moving around in a circle.

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Instructor insight: “You’re up and moving, but you don’t realize that it’s a workout,” Mann says. “Your brain is working, and it’s so much fun that you have no idea that the time passed and it’s time to end the class.”

Doesn’t sound like the right fit? Check back as we explore other fitness classes in the Denver area. 

(Read about more fitness classes in the Denver area

Mary Clare Fischer, Assistant Editor

Mary Clare Fischer co-edits 5280’s Compass, Adventure, and Culture sections; writes for multiple sections of the magazine; and blogs weekly about health and wellness for 5280.com.

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