Maybe “your mama didn’t dance and your daddy didn’t rock and roll” – as Loggins and Messina once sang – but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. Dancing whether to rock and roll, ballroom, modern, jazz, country, or tap, is one of the most enjoyable activities excellent for our health. The benefits dance provides range from not just the physical workout but also the psychological and social aspects enhancing our well-being.
One of the best things about dance is it literally requires just yourself – or a willing partner. It can be done in the convenience of your home without having to go to a gym, use weights, or even put on shoes. Just put on your favorite music and “dance the night away.”
· Provides a full body workout
Dance does indeed work your entire body from your head to your toes. Once you start moving, your cardiovascular system revs up getting your heart rate elevated as you breathe in deeper with the movements. Dance is also great for building up endurance while burning lots of calories to boot. On average, a 150-pound person burns about 240 calories per hour when dancing. Slower dances like the tango may burn less than 200 calorie per hour while fast-paced swing dancing can blaze through around 350 calories per hour.
· Improves balance and coordination
People who are professional dancers have incredible balance and coordination. They move with such grace and body awareness that watching them perform is always an amazing experience. It shows us just how beautiful the human body really is.
Many studies have indeed found dancing to improve balance, even in frail, elderly individuals. When people of all ages, even the elderly, take up dancing in some form, improvements in gait, walking speed, and reaction time are boosted as well as cognitive and fine motor performance. Dance studies have included all forms of dance from jazz, ballroom, tango, folk, and even slow, low-impact dance movements to be of benefit.
Even someone with Parkinson’s disease can see improvements in their movement. A 2010 review in the European Journal of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine found patients with this disease characterized by rigid muscles, slowed movement and impaired balance to be helped with dance.
· Enhances mood
After a night of “dance to the music”, very few people could say they didn’t enjoy themselves. Moving to the beat of music has a universal unique ability to lift spirits as it releases those feel-good endorphins. Turning on music has the magic of chasing away the blues, anxiety, and stress while boosting self-esteem, body image, coping ability, and overall sense of well-being. And those mood enhancing feelings tend to linger long after the music has died down. In one study, it even helped control emotional eating in obese women who eat as a response to stress.
· Builds strong bones
Dancing is one of the best bone-building exercises you can do. The weight-bearing movements are just what your bones need keeping them strong and dense while reducing the risk of osteoporosis.
· Keeps the brain young
The leisurely activity of dance is one of the best things we can do keeping our brain healthy, sharp and focused. A study published in The New England Journal of Medicine found frequent dancing to be the only physical activity of the nine studied that appeared to lower the study participants risk of dementia considerably. The researchers surmised that unlike other physical activities, dancing involves significant mental effort and social interactions. It is known that both intellectual and social stimulation have been shown to reduce the risk of cognitive decline as we age.