A Healthier, Happier, You Through Dance and Fitness!

Benefits of Dance and Dance Fitness

Dance is one of the oldest human activities and seems to have been around as long as people. Different types of dancing have been part of celebrations, ceremonies, and rituals in almost every recorded civilization including modern day life. It has been said that dance is a potent form of communication. From a primitive perspective, dancing is a very subtle way to communicate several important facts about one’s health and vigor to potential mates or enemies. From a practical perspective, dance is a way to build that physical and emotional health. Here are some of the benefits of participating in dance and dance fitness activities.

Dancing is an interesting way of keeping your heart and lungs healthy. There have been many studies on the cardiovascular benefits of dancing. A 2019 U.S. News article referenced just one of them. A study was done in the United Kingdom and published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine which stated the following:

Researchers pooled results from 11 surveys that included a total of 49,000 people. The investigators compared the health effects of walking and dancing, and found that moderate-intensity dancing was associated with a lower risk of dying from heart disease. Note that it took moderate-intensity activity to bring about these results, so if you're a fan of slow dancing, you'll need to pick up the pace. The heart-health benefits of dance are likely due to its interval-training-like bouts of high-intensity movement and it being a stress-relieving hobby you can do for life.

They say getting older is not for the faint of heart, however some dance lessons might help. According to a study in the Journal of Aging and Physical Activity, tango dancing can improve balance in aging adults. Dancing requires a lot of fast movement and good posture, so frequent dancing will help you stabilize and gain better control of your body.

Professional dancer Jonathan Tylicki, the director of education for AKT, a boutique fitness concept rooted in dance, says one of the reasons dance is such a great form of physical fitness is because it incorporates movements on all planes of motion and from all directions.

“Movements that we typically do in our daily life, like walking, taking the stairs, and common workouts like treadmills and cycling, occur in the sagittal plane, but dance works your body from all planes, including lateral and rotational, which turns on and conditions all muscles, meaning no muscle is left behind,” he said.

The many changes in body position and movement force your brain to adapt to the rolling movements. Practicing dance improves balance and flexibility for most people.

If you need a reason to get moving, consider this: A lot of research shows how dancing can maintain and even boost your ability to think as you age. According to a study in The New England Journal of Medicine, dancing may boost your memory and prevent you from developing dementia as you get older. Science reveals that aerobic exercise can reverse volume loss in the hippocampus, the part of the brain that controls memory. The hippocampus naturally shrinks during late adulthood, which often leads to impaired memory and sometimes dementia.

An exploratory study led by the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases depicts the mental benefits of dancing over other monotonic fitness programs. Results of this trial show that dancing regularly is connected to higher cognitive processes such as memory and attention, which may get affected as you age.

But how does this happen? Well, scientists have found that the areas of the brain that control memory and skills are stimulated by the music and rhythm. Dance also requires you to focus on both the constant changing of movement and recalling moves and patterns, giving your brain a workout. This is an excellent form of exercise for your mind, regardless of your age.

Dancing, such as ballroom, is appropriate for people with limited mobility. Many forms of dancing are lower impact than other fitness options such as running or cross-fit training. The lower impact nature of the movement and the improved balance and flexibility gained from dancing actually reduce the risk of injury both on and off the dance floor.

Bored with your bicycle? A study in the Journal of Physiological Anthropology found that an exercise program of aerobic dance training is just as helpful for losing weight and increasing aerobic power as cycling and jogging. Thanks to a 2012 research study commissioned by the American Council on Exercise (ACE), you can burn a significant number of calories with an hour of moderate-intensity dancing. In other words, dancing hard enough to break a sweat while breathing steadily, with dance floor conversation limited to short, two- to three-word sentences such as, "Work it sister!" and "You're owning that!" torches approximately 300 to 400 calories an hour. Dance Fitness classes are also a great way to get in your steps for the day averaging 5,000 steps in an hour long class.

Dance is helpful in managing diabetes. Dr. Felice Mangeri, Diabetologist, and Nutritionist at the Hospital of Gavardo, Italy, led research on the effects of ballroom and Latin dancing on people with type 2 diabetes and obesity. The team found that physical activity in the form of dance may be a beneficial strategy for those individuals.

If you’re feeling tense or stressed out, you might want to turn up the music and salsa! In a study in the Journal of Applied Gerontology, researchers found that partner dance and musical accompaniment can help bring about stress relief. Dancing lifts your spirits according to another study that tested the effects of dancing on people with depression. Patients who participated in an upbeat group dance showed the fewest depression symptoms and the most vitality. Dancing helps encourage social bonds and improves your mood by relieving anxiety and stress.

In the book, “An Introduction to Medical Dance/Movement Therapy: Health Care in Motion,” writer and researcher, Sharon W. Goodill, shows that dancing brings a positive outcome when it comes to vitality, mood, anxiety, mastery, and coping skills.

As you learn to perform the moves in any dance style, your muscles begin to adapt to the movements. The more you practice each dance step the stronger certain muscles become. Many dancers have excellent physiques and they never enter a gym. Research published in the British Journal of General Practice talks about the benefits of dance as an exercise. The paper reveals that any type of dance you do can aid in developing bone density and muscle strength in various amounts. The basic steps for dance help you build leg muscle. Learning to maintain a frame strengthens your arm, shoulder, and back muscles. Learning to keep your head up builds neck muscles. Dancing is not the same as a strength workout at the gym but when you practice dancing for 30 minutes or more per day you will notice an increase in your overall strength.

Wondering where your get-up-and-go got up and went? Taking a dance class might help. Research published in The Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition found that a weekly dance program could improve physical performance and increase energy levels among adults. Call it stamina, endurance, or staying power, as you spend more time dancing, your body becomes accustomed to maintaining constant exertion. Dancing for two hours is equivalent to running 15-20 miles. Don’t just get up and start dancing for two hours, though. You’ll have to build up to that kind of activity.

A dance class is the perfect setting to make new friends and branch out socially. Researchers at the University of California have found that dancing with a partner helps in better social functioning and it also boosts self-confidence. The beauty of this art form is that it is eclectic and includes everyone. If you’re able to move, even if it’s only your upper body, you can dance. Anyone can participate in dance, even those who think they have 2 left feet. This is what makes dance so popular with people who typically shy away from other forms of exercise. It helps build friendships, romantic relationships, and even familial relationships. Sharing in the dance experience brings people closer together and helps them build rapport in a community.

The most fascinating thing about dancing is that it is fun and does not get boring over time. There is always something new to be learned. Whether you take up salsa, waltz, or Zumba, dancing in any form is meant to help your physical, mental as well as emotional health. It’s the most fun workout that doesn’t feel like a workout.