By Hailey Balzam
The popularity of dance has expanded in recent years, with television shows like Dancing with the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance joining traditional venues in bringing the beauty and wonder of this activity to a wider audience. Popularity has brought with it unintended benefits to the many people who find it more accessible and less daunting than previously.
Interest in dancing has given gyms a surge as they add various dance workouts to their physical activities. Zumba, a combination of dance and aerobics set to energetic music, is one of the more popular workouts. The sheer number of Zumba classes available, across the United States, speak to the popularity of dance as a physical exercise.
Dance is one of those activities that have multiple benefits. Physical health, of course, is one of the most popular reasons why people dance. However, it isn’t the only reason:
● Physical benefits include weight loss, increased stamina, improved balance and more. In addition to toning your body, dance improves your flexibility and increases your confidence. Dancing is comparable to low-impact exercises like aerobics, cycling and walking. Although the number of calories burned depends on the type of dance (and the tempo of the music), social dancing burns 150 calories in approximately half an hour. Dance can be tailored for the level of physical activity you need and want. A simple rhythm change to the music can make your body work harder and burn more calories, all while giving you a chance to lose yourself in the music.
● The mental benefits of dance are less well-defined than the physical benefits but they certainly exist. Dancing increases the production of chemicals in the brain that help with the growth of nerve cells. The act of learning dance steps also helps improve your memory skills and the social aspect of dance gives your brain a chance to stretch and be used to create and maintain friendships. Dancing has even been shown to minimize the effects of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
● Emotional benefits are difficult to assess but they are certainly present. Dancing, like most exercises, increases the production of serotonin and dopamine levels in the body. Increased production of these natural drugs can lower psychological stress and lower your risks of depression. In addition to making you feel better, the social aspect of dancing can reduce feelings of loneliness and create social interactions that are necessary for our emotional health.
Dancing is a “whole body” exercise that has benefits greater than just losing a few pounds. As an exercise, the advantages to dance are many and astounding.
Taking the first steps
Finding a place to set free your inner Martha Graham or Gene Kelly has become very simple. As mentioned earlier, the popularity of Zumba courses at gyms and exercise centers has sparked a new interest in combining dance with exercise. Most towns and communities have dance/exercise classes or courses available. No matter what age you are, dancing can improve your physical condition, your mental state and emotional outlook.
Don’t delay, all you need are your dance sneakers and an interest in getting healthier while having a great time. The physical, mental and emotional advantages of dancing your way to health and fitness are both overwhelming and fun.