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Weight loss, health on your mind? Try Thandav

Weight loss, health on your mind? Try Thandav

A new high-intensity dance routine conceived by the Madras Diabetes Research Foundation aims to keep adolescent girls fit and healthy

Thandav, a high-intensity dance performance for fitness was conceived by the Madras Diabetes Research Foundation

A brief but high-intensity groove to the popular dance number ‘Naatu Naatu’ from the Indian movie RRR might just be what you need to keep yourself fit and healthy as per diabetologist Dr R M Anjana and Dr Ranjani Harish, senior scientist at Madras Diabetes Research Foundation (MDRF).

Dr RM Anjana, vice-president of Madras Diabetes Research Foundation, believes that a physically active lifestyle from adolescence is vital to tackle lifestyle and metabolic conditions like type 2 diabetes later in life. This inspired her to design and develop THANDAV (Taking High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) And Dance to Adolescents for Victory over NCDs) in 2019, with inputs from researchers, diabetologists, fitness experts and choreographers, most of whom are women.

Dr Anjana initially wanted to focus on 10- to 17-year-old adolescent girls, especially those from non-urban and conservative sections of Indian society who have limited access to gyms or training sessions outside their homes.


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What is THANDAV?

THANDAV is a freestyle dance routine based on Indian classical and folk dance forms. The movements are choreographed in a simple and repetitive so that they can be done in a loop without much stress. The movements also adhere to the norms of High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) which has proven to be effective against cardiovascular and metabolic complications.

“It is structured with a two-minute high-intensity segment followed by a 30-second low-intensity segment which goes on a loop four times,” says Dr Anjana who is also the managing director at Dr Mohan’s Diabetes Specialities Centre.

Four popular songs in Tamil, Hindi, Telugu or any other Indian language are selected, spliced and then fused together creating a 10-minute exercise track. The main objective was to ensure that the dance movements adhered to the HIIT norms.

Though the project began with the intention of reaching out to adolescent girls and young women, Dr Anjana says that even elder women have expressed interest in this home workout routine. Initial training may take a couple of weeks after which participants will be able to do it by themselves.

THANDAV and weight loss

Dr Anjana and team conducted a pilot study on the benefits of THANDAV in Bengaluru in 2019 in which participants were trained in the movements for two days and then asked to practise it every day for three weeks. They were monitored daily and asked to report for testing at the Division of Nutrition at St John’s Research Institute in Bengaluru where their vitals, heart rate and energy levels were checked before and after the session.

Based on the heart rate, energy expenditure levels and other factors, it was confirmed that THANDAV met the HIIT norms. The research was carried out with support and grants from the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

“As of now, we have evaluated only healthy children and it has been confirmed that THANDAV aids in weight loss. Further research is ongoing to find its effect on other metabolic conditions including diabetes,” Dr Anjana adds.

Different from Zumba

Dr Anjana points out that THANDAV is very different from Zumba, a popular aerobic dance workout form.

“Zumba is only a dancing workout and [it is] not recognised as a HIIT workout. To get health advantages [from THANDAV], you must meticulously follow a predetermined set of moves and actions,” she continues, explaining how THANDAV incorporates elements of Bollywood dance into a HIIT workout.

‘THANDAV helped me to stay fit during the pandemic’

“We have to dance for the first two minutes with high intensity, followed by a 30-second cooldown. I do it for half an hour every day. It is very easy, and it also helped me stay fit during the lockdown,” says 15-year-old Harmeen Kaur from Bengaluru.

She began following the THANDAV routine in 2019 after her mother’s friend, a physician, informed her about this novel dance intervention during its initial phase. She adds that she feels healthier, has better stamina and has lost weight because of these sessions.

A Thandav dance performance by women at an event

Why this high-intensity home workout is relevant

Dr Anjana points out that women face several hurdles including social prejudice, family obligations and often, a lack of acceptance to work out outside the house alongside men, especially in the non-urban and conservative milieus.

“Women are almost always short of time when it comes to self-care. Going to the gym might not be an option for many women due to various reasons. Therefore, we came up with this plan,” she says.

Dr Ranjani Harish, a senior scientist at Madras Diabetes Research Foundation, Chennai, points out that various external factors limit women regarding activities like swimming, jogging, or even playing when compared to men. With THANDAV as a regular exercise routine, these constraints can be overcome.

Dr Anjana and her team have already taken the dance form to many cities like Chennai and Bengaluru in India and Melbourne, Australia. At least two private schools in Chennai are imparting THANDAV training to students.


High-Intensity Interval Training programs have been proven to be helpful in managing cardiovascular and metabolic conditions. The THANDAV version has been initially proven to be effective in weight loss, which makes it a perfect option also for type 2 diabetes management. However, further research is under way in this direction.

Share Your Experience/Comments

2 Responses

  1. I want to join HIIT program. What is the procedure? Are online classes available? Fee structure?

  2. This is so good to hear and I want to participate in this. Assuming that this will help me to reduce my weight and to stay fit.

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