March 06, 2022
Whether it’s ballroom, jazz, tap, ballet, square dancing, or another dance form, dancing is coming into its own as a wonderful physical activity that has powerful effects on health.
The first and most obvious effect of dance is that it’s physical. Unless you are slow dancing under dim lights with your partner to “your song,” dancing is very similar to many other cardio activities.
Dancing can also do wonders to improve your balance as well as your strength. That’s because unlike many other activities such as walking or cycling, which only take place in one plane, dancing involves complex movements in many planes. This engages multiple muscle groups and forces their conditioning.
Dancing is also advantageous for people with limited mobility or who have other health problems, as the moves can always be modified to fit your condition. If you are taking a class and have concerns about this, speak to the instructor. Almost anyone can participate in dance, even those people who can move only a portion of their bodies or who use a wheelchair.
Besides being good for your cardiovascular system, your muscles, and your balance, dancing is also good for your brain! Research shows that dancing can help you to retain your cognitive abilities as you age. This is because dancing enhances the function of the areas of your brain that have to do with memory as well as such skills as planning and organizing. Plus, if you need to remember a sequence of dance moves or a choreographed routine, your brain has to really focus and work to accomplish this, and that’s a great brain workout.
Dancing is also good for your emotional health. For one thing, dance is an expressive activity that allows you to “let go” of your stress and worries and just be in the moment. Plus, most dance is done to music, which can add a powerful emotional uplifting effect of its own. Research on dance and emotional health finds that dancing can reduce anxiety and depression and can also work to boost your self-esteem.
You may be one of those people who only dances at home when no one is watching, but dancing as a couple or in a group can be a wonderful social activity as well. You can take advantage of this aspect of dance by enrolling in a group dance class (even online if you like!), dancing with your children or grandchildren, or dancing with friends. The sense of connection, moving in unison with other people, laughter, and just the all-around experience of having fun can greatly enhance your social connections, which are vital to preserve as you age.
It’s hard for many people to shake the notion that they are just not a good dancer or they have “two left feet.” But dancing, unless you are a professional ballet or ballroom dancer, is unlikely to have serious consequences if you do it “badly.”
Probably the very best way to gain more confidence with your dancing is to take a class. Besides the positive social effects, getting professional instruction will help you learn rhythm and tempo and give you the confidence to try more complicated moves. Pick a style of dance that appeals to you and one that you are excited to learn.
You can take a class at a traditional dance studio or these days, most fitness centers and gyms have dance options as well. There are also dance-related classes as well, such as Zumba®, Pilates, and barre.
Remember, when it comes to dancing, the only rule is to have fun. Now grab your partner and let’s dance!