The next time you shimmy at home to your favorite song or head out for an evening of dancing with friends, consider this: Cutting a rug can be just as good for your body as it is for your social life. From your heart to your bones, dancing is an excellent way to get healthy and have fun.
And you don’t have to spend a lifetime as a dancer to reap the physical benefits of this weight-bearing exercise. Where can dancing have the biggest effect? Your heart. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, dancing can lower your risk of coronary heart disease and decrease blood pressure.
A study from the Lancisi Heart Institute in Ancona, Italy, suggests even more benefits from a whirl or two around the dance floor. Researchers found that men and women with mild to moderate heart failure could boost their bodies’ oxygen use through dancing. Those who participated in an exercise program that included dancing three times a week showed an 18 percent improvement in oxygen use—a sign of better overall heart health.
Flexibility and bone health
The effects of dancing go beyond with your cardiovascular system. Many social dances such as salsa, swing and ballroom also affect several other areas of the body. Salsa dancing, for example, is known to build stamina, and often serves as an effective weight-loss method. The swift moves of up-tempo swing dancing improve posture and increase flexibility, a must-have as joints begin to stiffen more easily with age.
Another key benefit of dancing is preserving bone density: Experts agree that busting a move on the dance floor strengthens muscle tissue essential to preserving your bones and helps prevent osteoporosis, a condition in which the bones become extremely weak and easily broken. In fact, dancing is also one of five steps to better bone health listed by the National Osteoporosis Foundation.
Whether you’re picking up a childhood favorite again or taking up something new, it’s never too late to get started dancing. Many women don’t like the gym, as it can become boring over time. Dancing, on the other hand, is creative and can make you feel connected to your physical and mental well-being.
Advice for first-timers or those getting back into the swing of things? Find something you enjoy. It’s important to choose something that allows you to have fun and be happy. You may even forget you’re getting a workout.
Time to boogie
If learning fancy new footwork seems overwhelming, here are some popular dances to get you movin’ and shakin’.
Ballroom dance. The waltz, foxtrot and tango are just a few of the steps you’ll learn as part of this versatile dance style. Ballroom dancing controls speed, agility and balance.
Belly dance. Whether performed alone or with a group of friends, belly dancing is a fun way to gain strength and improve flexibility, and it can burn as many calories as a light jog or bicycle ride.
Hip-hop. You don’t need baggy pants to groove to this! Many gyms now offer hip-hop aerobics classes for those looking for a cardio workout that helps shed weight to a fast-paced beat.
Line dancing. This synchronized dance gets your heart pumping and works with many types of music: rock, country, pop, you name it.
Zumba. This Latin-inspired, cardio-based workout combines salsa, samba and more with easy-to-follow dance moves that are kind to the knees and beneficial for the heart.
For ultimate cardiovascular conditioning, experts recommend 30 to 60 minutes of this type of continuous activity at least four days a week.
5 reasons to dance for your health
- Lower heart disease risk.
- Decrease blood pressure.
- Build stamina.
- Boost flexibility.
- Preserve bone health.