The words “pole dancing” typically spark mixed emotions and pre-conceived notions; some jump right to stereotypical stripping, while others tend to be a bit more open-minded that it is a form of fitness. Since Demi Moore’s debut in the movie Striptease, pole dancing has been gaining popularity as a serious form of fitness. Year after year, more pole fitness studios are popping up across the world, enticing new students to get in shape.

The unique thing about the aerial arts industry is that there are people from all walks of life who take part in this exercise regimen: moms who want to get their sexy back, teens who are looking for more than typical high school sports, and young women who need a boost of self-confidence. The workout itself is intense, offering serious core and upper body strength building, muscle definition and weight loss. But the mental and emotional benefits are important as well, helping participants feel confident and empowered.

“This form of fitness allows students to tap into something deeper, more private and protected so they can let down their walls,” explains Ashley Popoli, owner of the Stamford-based Vertical Addiction aerial arts studio. “It’s emotionally and physically liberating to move in a way that feels natural for your body without judgment. This continual self-exploration coupled with an amazing workout keeps students coming back for more.”

A student of Popoli concurs: “I feel empowered and I have a sense of accomplishment that carries over to everything else I do; it doesn’t hurt that it is the most fun workout I have ever done!”

Last year, in an effort to promote awareness of this sport within the community as well as offer local athletes a platform to showcase their abilities, Popoli hosted Fairfield County’s FIRST EVER pole fitness showcase with over 20 performers.

With all the positive momentum this industry is experiencing, comes a need for serious recognition and respect on a larger scale. The International Pole Sport Federation (IPSF) is taking the lead to engage in conversations with the Olympic committee to strive to have pole fitness become a recognized sport in the games.

Next time you hear the words pole dancing or pole fitness don’t be quick to brush it off. Try out a class and experience a sport that not only gets you in shape, but also makes you feel confident and empowered. Local studios include Stamford’s Vertical Addiction (, Milford’s The Girl Spot (, Norwalk’s Work It Dance and Fitness ( and Bridegport’s Elite Dance Corp. (

Ashley Popoli is owner of Vertical Addiction. Ariana Rawls Fine is Editor of Natural Awakenings Fairfield County.