Dancing Like the Stars!Dance Your Way to Health & Fitness
-- By Leanne Beattie, Health & Fitness Writer
If you’re looking for a new way to jazz up your fitness routine, why not try dancing? With the popularity of TV dance shows these days, there’s never been a better time to put on your dancing shoes. Why should celebrities have all the fun?
Even though you’ve probably danced a little here and there, you may not have considered it to be "real" exercise because it’s so enjoyable. This element of fun is exactly what makes dancing such a great way to get in shape—if you like it, you’ll do it more often.
Experts recommend 60 minutes of exercise each day and dancing can be a heart-healthy aerobic workout. If you pick up the pace, you can burn as many calories as walking, swimming or riding a bicycle. Besides being fun, each dance step you take counts toward your "daily 10,000" (the amount of steps experts recommend taking each day for general health). In one study, researchers attached pedometers to square dancers and found that their steps covered nearly five miles in a single evening of dancing.
Reason to Put on Your Dancing Shoes
Treadmills and exercise bikes are great ways to get in shape, but your body can quickly get used to the technique—meaning you begin to see fewer results over time. Dancing, however, is multi-directional and forces your muscles to move in new ways. If you’re doing the foxtrot, you’re taking long, graceful steps backwards, for example—a move you’d never make running on a treadmill. By working your muscles in new ways, dancing can help you get over or prevent that dreaded plateau (when you stop getting results from your fitness routine).
And while it’s easy to zone out on the treadmill for thirty minutes without paying attention to the sensations in your body, dancing is different because it stimulates your mind during the entire session. You have to pay attention to your steps at all times and anticipate your next move, which keeps you connected to your body the entire time, without getting bored.
This mental connection may be just what you need to stay sharp into your senior years too. A 21-year study of senior citizens, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that frequent dancing offered the greatest protection against dementia—a phenomenal 76% reduction in risk as compared to other physical activities like golf.
Not only does dancing increase blood flow to the brain, the social aspect of dance reduces stress, depression and loneliness. The need to memorize steps and work in sync with a partner also provides a mental challenge that keeps the mind active.
Dance also counts as weight-bearing exercise, which means that it can help strengthen bones and fight osteoporosis. It requires agility, balance, and grace—qualities that aren't fostered in a typical gym workout.
Health & Fitness Benefits
If you’re looking to improve your health and fitness level, a wide variety of dance styles can do the trick. From bellydance to square dance, ballet to ballroom, and salsa to swing, you can get a fun aerobic workout that also offers the following benefits:
- Stronger bones
- Greater endurance and stamina
- Stress relief
- More flexibility
- Better posture
- Improved balance
- Total body toning
- Enahnced weight loss
- Cardiovascular benefits
- Reduced back pain
- Calorie Burn (hourly average for a 150-pound person): Ballet (300), Ballroom (265), Bellydancing (380), Salsa (400), Square dancing (300), Swing (280)
If you’re new to the dance scene, you may need some instruction before you can begin. Check your local dance schools to see if they’re open to the public on certain nights for casual dancing or join a class for formal lessons. Most schools accept singles, so you can take part even without a partner. Another option is to try the drop-in classes offered at fitness centers. There are also plenty of dance clubs that accept new members, such as square dance or clogging groups.
If you’re a little shy, don’t forget that you can always crank up the tunes in your own living room and dance away to your heart’s content. The kids can even join in making for a fun family fitness night. So put on your favorite music, grab a partner and start boogying!