When we think about exercise, we have a lot of preconceived ideas. Lycra, gyms, running shoes, effort, exertion. When we imagine exercise we don’t imagine dancing, making friends and socializing. But we should. Dancing is a great form of exercise!
Social Dance Animal
Most adult types of dance are partner dancing, which is a very social form of exercise. You experience the dance both as a group and a couple. Compare that to swimming. Swimming is a solo form of exercise. You beat your own personal best. You swim in your own lane, trying not to connect with other people. You might get to know a few people if you always swim at the same time, but mainly it is an isolated activity.
When you dance you are physically connected to your partner. You are both dancing to the same music, trying to understand and reflect the way the other is expressing the music. One of you has picked up on a regular pattern in the music — the other has noticed, and you have dance magic. It is a great feeling when you both perfect a move it can be quite good fun when you make mistakes. You don’t get as frustrated because there are two of you. You muck something up, your partner laughs, you laugh. You both try again.
Most forms of modern partner dance involve dancing with different partners. This means you get the chance to meet lots of people. And you get to learn different things from different people. One partner might be great at timing — always knows where the breaks in the music are and is spot on the beat, whereas another partner might be fantastic at style, making the moves theirs. You dance differently with each person and learn something new each time.
This connection with another person is essential for humans and according to a study investigated by Psychology Today it can help prevent mental health problems like depression and lead to a 50% increase in longevity.
Dancing is an aerobic form of exercise, which is great for your heart and lungs. But it doesn’t feel like it. Your focus is on perfecting the moves and developing your dance style rather than getting fit or working certain parts of your body. It is like hiding chopped vegetables in a child’s dinner — with dancing you get a good aerobic workout without intending to!
Better Bone Benefits
When you dance, you generally move around on your feet. Transferring your weight from one foot, or part of your foot, to another. This movement helps to strengthen your bones, preventing conditions like osteoporosis. Using the muscles around your joints helps to strengthen them, making the joints stronger and more stable. Which will make dancing easier! In Berlin in 2005, a song called A Healthy Body was released on World Osteoporosis Day (alongside public health broadcasts) with the intention of encouraging people to dance to it in order to beat Osteoporosis.
Flex Like a Fox
When we think of ways to increase our flexibility we consider yoga. Which is accurate. Yoga is great for developing our flexibility. And so is dancing — as a study on balance and flexibility between dancers and non-dancers found out. Building up your flexibility while moving (rather than forcing your body into static stretches) is a great, natural way to become more flexible. As you learn new moves and build on these you know, your body starts to be able to get into positions it had previously struggled with. Maybe not the splits or a foot behind the head straight away, but in time, who knows!
Dance All Night!
Exercises that we think will help with stamina tend to be fairly isolated. Running and swimming, for example. With dancing, you build up your stamina very gradually and without realizing you are doing it. The moves you learn as a beginner will be easier and lower intensity. As you progress you will start to learn harder moves which will become more aerobic. When you first start you may dance a sequence of 3 or 4 moves to one 3 minute piece of music, then stop and rest. As you get better you will find that you can dance more moves and for longer. Maybe 20 minutes before you need a rest. You won’t be aiming for it — not trying to beat your personal best, just that your body is working better, which means you can dance more, which is fun!
Pain is NOT Gain
When you start a new form of exercise it is very easy to get hurt. Picking up injuries which mean you have to stop for a while and slow down your progression. It can be very frustrating! This is less of a problem with dancing because you learn the moves in a slow progressive way. You start off with easier, safer moves and regular rest breaks and as you progress you add in harder moves with less rest. There is no need to learn faster than you are able to, so you should not be doing things that you are not comfortable with
Beat Dementia With Dance
There has been a lot of research on the effects of dancing on the brain. As BUPA state in their information sheet, It has been proven that dancing can help treat arthritis, Parkinson’s and lower the risk of developing dementia by 76%. Having to consider how your body is moving is as much a work out for the brain as the body! My right foot there, as I turn clockwise with my left arm over there…Trying to coordinate the movements at the correct time can be a challenge. And that is why it is good for your brain. It means your brain is constantly having to work out what you are doing. If you are good at the Macarena, your brain can probably dance it without too much effort. Now imagine someone else telling you to alternate each Macarena move with a Cha Cha Slide move. Your brain is constantly having to reassess your movements. This is what makes dancing so good — it gives your brain a constantly varied workout.
Dancing is a full body workout that can benefit you in a whole range of ways. It is used to treat conditions and to prevent conditions from developing. On top of that, it is fun, it looks wonderful and makes you the ideal guest to have at a wedding — no more terrible Dad dancing or shuffling around like a lemon!