You Should Be Dancin'. Yeah.
Dancing is a great way to improve physical fitness, develop social skills and create relationships that improve mental health.
How Dancing Compares to Other Exercise
The benefits offered by dancing depend on the form you choose, but some people have concluded that it improves physical health by developing strength, suppleness, coordination and balance. Some of the more ‘energetic’ forms of dance — jitterbug, salsa and aerobic dance like Zumba® and Jazzercise® — can use almost as much energy as jogging or swimming laps.
Ballroom and Latin American dancing require good coordination and fluidity of movement and offer about the same level of exercise you would get from walking briskly or doing water aerobics.
Square dancing can involve increasingly complex and challenging movements. Other benefits of dancing can include improved self-esteem, cooperating with others and making new friends.
In a recent study of mostly Latinas over 65 presented at the American Heart Association’s EPI/Lifestyle Scientific Sessions 2016, those who participated in a four-month twice weekly Latin dance class increased their amount of physical activity and walking speed.
How to Get Started
Look for classes at dance schools, health clubs or community centers. Don’t worry about having a partner. Many classes will find you a partner. Some types of dancing, such as tap and line dancing, do not require a partner.
If you are new to dance or you have been inactive, start with a beginner class. A beginner class will be easier to follow and will reduce your risk for injury. As you build your skill and fitness, you can try more advanced classes. You may even want to add new types of dance.
Not sure what type of dance to choose? Ask if you can watch a few classes first. Once you start a class, be patient. It can take some time to learn how to move your body and feet together with the music.
An essay in the 2007 British Journal of General Practice recommended that people engage in types of dancing that develop cooperation, either with a partner or within a set, like square dancing. But you don’t have to wait for a class, put on music and dance around your house. Even wheelchair-users have their own formation-dancing teams, providing a non-competitive way to be active.
The American Heart Association calls for all adults to get a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate physical activity or at least 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity (or a combination of both) each week. Regular physical activity has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes and certain forms of cancer as well as improve balance and reduce depression in adults and older adults.
This information is provided as a resource to our readers. The tips, products or resources listed or linked to have not been reviewed or endorsed by the American Heart Association.