There is a huge variety of different styles of dance, and many of them are becoming more popular and widely accessible.
Having a good dance around is not only a good form of exercise, it can also improve your mood and help you feel great, and research indicates that there are many other health benefits.
Dancing on a regular basis has been linked with reduced risk of many health conditions, including cardiovascular disease, decreased stress levels, lower blood pressure, improved mood and reduced depression.
Dancing Your Way to Health
I don’t know about anyone else, but I’ve noticed I don’t really dance very much anymore. When I first made this observation, I was quite sad. I used to love dancing!
Whether it was making a bad job of allowing my wonderfully light footed father to coax a half-decent waltz out of me, or bopping away on the dance floor with my friends, a world away from our worries and cares, I just love the feeling of moving to music, and the way it makes me feel.
I love the fact that you don’t have to be the world’s best dancer to enjoy it—and I can certainly attest to that. It can be a great way to bond socially with people, make new friends and get some exercise at the same time.
In fact, scientific research suggests that there are so many health benefits of dance in lots of different ways that we should all get our dancing shoes on!
So, just before I head off to my brand new, shiny modern jive class (it’s so much fun!), here’s a pit-stop guide to why dancing is so incredibly good for you!
What Is Dancing?
Okay, so we probably have a good basic idea about what dancing is in terms of moving our bodies or part of them around rhythmically in time with music. Dancing can be done alone, with a partner, or as part of a group. It can be soft and gentle, or high impact and full of power and energy.
There are a variety of activities that involve dance. As well as the traditional forms of dance; ballet, tap and many different styles of ballroom dancing, there are now more ways than ever to get some dance steps into your life.
From organized street dance, amazingly demonstrated by dance group Diversity (check them out below—they’re awesome!) to freestyling in the park, in the club, or wherever else the mood takes you. Taking a Zumba, aerobics, belly dancing or even a pole dancing class; there are almost too many different forms of dance to count!
The Physical Health Benefits of Dance
The first and most obvious health benefit is that dancing is a great aerobic activity. It increases the amount of energy we use, stimulates our nervous system and gets our heart and many other muscles working, helping to improve cardiovascular fitness and increasing muscular strength and endurance.
Dancing also challenges our proprioception, and can help to improve our coordination and balance. Dancing can also increase agility levels, and depending on the type of dance, flexibility may also be improved.
As a physically taxing activity, dancing burns up extra calories compared to resting. Combined with a sensible eating plan, dance can help as part of a weight management program.
Depending on individual body mass and the intensity and style of dancing, it’s possible to lose anywhere from 200 to 500 calories per hour through dancing.
Helps Strengthen Bones
Weight bearing on our joints and bones helps to keep them healthy. It provides information that the body is relying on particular structures for support, and ensures a ready supply of nutrients to help keep them strong and healthy.
As a weight-bearing exercise, dancing is one way of keeping our bones and joints healthy, delaying the onset of arthritic symptoms and reducing the risk of conditions such as osteoporosis.
In addition, dance can have a number of not so obvious benefits. For example, it can promote a sense of physical confidence as you learn to exert and position your body with control and precision.
The effect of this can be intensified as we note improvements in physical fitness and appearance.
Dancing can help us improve our social skills, and give us an activity to focus on when we’re in company. This can make it easier to socialize. Dancing may also be a great way of expanding our circle of friends and meeting people with common interests.
Scientists have studied the effects of dance on the brain and nervous system. They found that dancing provides a great workout for the brain, activating lots of different areas of the brain at once.
Psychologically, dancing can also have some impressive health benefits. Research tells us that dancing can help to improve our mood, reduce stress and decrease the symptoms of depression.
Clinical trials have revealed that a Zumba dance program helps to reduce stress. Scientists have observed that dancing encourages new neural connections and increases the amount of certain hormones. In particular, studies have noted a significant increase in the blood concentrations of the feel-good hormone, serotonin.
Dancing involves the planning and execution of both large and fine movements, which requires the motor cortex, basal ganglia and cerebellum in the brain to work with structures in the spinal cord to put together all the different elements of the sequenced, rhythmical movements required in dance.
Keeping the brain active has been associated with maintaining brain and nervous system health, and reducing the risk or delaying the onset of neurological conditions.
One study found that out of 11 different leisure activities, dance was the only activity that was found to decrease the risk of dementia. Other research indicates dance is an effective therapy for improving the quality of both walking and speech in people with Parkinson’s disease.
When embarking on any new fitness activity, it’s best to get the all-clear from your doctor first. This applies particularly if you have any existing health conditions.
If you’re new to dancing, start out in a beginner’s class or at a low level, and progress at your own pace. It’s just as important to have fun as well as getting a workout.
Not all styles of dancing will suit everyone. Give one a try for a few classes, and if you don’t like it try something new!
Wear clothing that’s loose enough to feel comfortable, but not so loose that it will flap around and get in the way while you’re strutting your stuff—and leave the heels at home. It’s much easier to learn new dance step without them.
Generally, dancing is a healthy activity for most people in terms of physical and mental health. Dancing has a natural feel-good factor, and studies have linked dancing to increased levels of serotonin, which produces a natural high, improving mood and depression.
Any form of exercise is great, but research indicates the health benefits of dance are superior to other activities. Dancing is associated with increased brain activity, better proprioception, balance and motor control.
As an aerobic form of exercise, dancing provides a great workout for the cardiovascular system, and can help to build muscle strength and flexibility. The specific health benefits of dance depends on the type of dancing you choose, and the intensity.
There are so many dance styles to choose from. Joining a dance class can be a great way to boost your confidence, improve your social skills and make new friends. Have a look around and see what’s in your area, and remember to have fun!