CrossFit and Zumba, please step aside: It’s Prancercise that’s sweeping the nation now—at least online, where a video of the workout by creator Joanna Rohrback, 61, has gone viral on YouTube.
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“Let’s stop talkin’ and do some walkin’,” she commands at the start of her 5-minute video, “Prancercise: A Fitness Workout.”
In it, Rohrback, a retired social worker and real estate agent living in Coral Springs, Florida, demonstrates the exercise she created (and trademarked) back in 1989, and then resurrected in 2012 when she self-published a book, “Prancercise: The Art of Physical and Spiritual Exercise.” The workout, done while wearing ankle or wrist weights, consists of a “springy, rhythmic way of moving forward, similar to a horse’s gait and ideally induced by elation,” according to her description on YouTube, which had drawn more than 300,000 visitors by Thursday afternoon.
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Though many of those viewers have no doubt just been amused by Rohrback’s overall presentation—prancing joyously along a park path in white leggings, a coral jacket, chunky jewelry, full makeup and fresh-from-the-beauty-parlor hair—the exercise concept isn’t a bad one, according to at least one fitness expert.
"Anything to get people moving more is positive,” Equinox’s national director of group fitness, Carol Espel, told Yahoo! Shine. “Walking, similar to Prancercise, has been and continues to be one of the most popular activities worldwide because of its accessibility by just about everyone.” Rohrback’s moves look “very gentle and slow,” she noted, and might be a fun change of pace for regular strollers.
The only drawback, Espel adds, might be the ankle weights, which were introduced in the ’80s “to purportedly increase the intensity of the workout,” but didn’t really add much more than an increased risk of injury. And don’t expect to burn off dessert, either. “I would suggest that the calorie burn and health benefits would be similar to a 3 mph stroll or walk,” she said. And that, according to various online calorie-burn counters, means a 130-pound woman would burn only about 128 calories during a half hour of Prancercising.
Rohrback declined an interview with Yahoo! Shine Thursday after being bombarded with media requests. But her Prancercise website, which went down for a few hours after apparently crashing from a traffic overload, gives more insight into the fitness enthusiast's various philosophies. Her Prancercise program, she writes, is about liberating people from gyms (which make us "work out" instead of "play") and food addictions, as well as "using imagery to imagine ourselves as a beautiful animal that's a symbol of beauty."
She also explains that her book discusses not only the workout routine, but also "the dark side of the meat and dairy industry," injury prevention, first aid and innovative thinkers from Gandhi to Isadora Duncan. In a section of Rohrback's website called "Diet," she writes about her very equine eating habits—a mostly-vegan diet consisting of raw fruits and vegetables (with some cooked beans or salmon thrown in on occasion).
According to a story in the Miami New Times, the Prancercise creator is a nursing school grad who has held jobs ranging from social worker to cocktail waitress. She finished her book back in 1994, right around the time she first created a test workout video, “Funky Punky Prancercise.” But then she found herself laid up with a “female condition” for a decade. After a natural-healing regimen, Rohrback, started exercising again last year, and even Prancercised with a group of cohorts, for an entire 5-kilometer race in November.
On Amazon, where Rohrback’s hardcover is on sale for $23.36, a handful of fans with a flair for the tongue-in-cheek have extoled its virtues. “At first I was skeptical, but after convincing several of my co-workers to try Prancercise, I am a believer,” wrote John Pape. “I lead a daily Prancercise at work and people come out of their office, Prancercise for a while and then go back to work. Afterward we high-five, enjoy an orange mocha Frappuccino, and head back to work knowing we let our inner-horse out to pasture.”
Jonathan E. Jonathan admitted that, “As I felt the breeze in my long red locks, I knew that exercise would never EVER be the same,” while G.C., a self-confessed “brony,” wrote that “the one thing that the new My Little Pony franchise has not really taken into consideration is the health of their fanbase.” He added that Rohrback was a “kindred spirit,” and that Prancercise “has changed my life. I went from lazy, lethargic” to “full of energy, life, joie de vivre. I am a new me. A new pony. I do not skulk around, I PRANCE. I prance PROUDLY and with gusto.”