By Kelly Neufeld
With the wave of dancing shows that have appeared in recent years more and more people are starting to dance as part of their exercise routine. It’s said that the best form of exercise is the one that you will stick to. Dancing is a fun, social activity that feels like less of a workout than running on a treadmill.
Health Benefits of Dancing
Dancing is a fun activity that can burn quite a few calories depending on the type of dance and intensity. A slow dance will burn about the same amount of calories as walking while a more energetic dance could burn twice as many calories as walking. Dancing also forces you to use different muscles than you are used to and can help tone your entire body. Along with a cardio workout dance also improves balance, coordination and flexibility. Dancing has also been shown to reduce stress and improve energy.
One study involving people who had experienced heart failure found that dancing was as effective as cycling or walking in increasing their exercise capacity. Participants in the dancing group also noticed an improvement in their sleeping habits and mood after 8 weeks of 3 work-outs a week for just 21 minutes. While exercise is vital after heart problems, traditional exercise plans have high drop out rates which may be lowered by offering more social and enjoyable options of working out.
Some people starting to dance are complete beginners while others return to dance after taking years off to raise a family. Sarah, “Paddy”, Jones started dancing as a toddler and even danced professionally for seven years starting at age 15. But when she got married at age 22, she gave up dancing to spend more time with her husband and soon her four children. When her husband died when she was in her late 60s she returned to dancing as a form of therapy. Her dance teacher immediately noticed her talent and she soon partnered with her 35 year old dance teacher. At age 75 she participated in a Spanish version of the show “America’s Got Talent” and won first place in her round and the equivalent of over $14,000. She also holds the Guinness World Record for the world’s oldest acrobatic salsa dancer.
See below for a video of an interview with Paddy Jones and clips of her dancing the salsa.
Types of Dancing
There are many different types of dancing you can try. You can choose based on your music preferences, the amount of coordination required and whether or not you need a partner.
Dance styles can range from traditional ballroom dancing, salsa, lyrical, swing, belly dancing to hip hop or even breakdancing. One of the most popular classes right now is Zumba which is an easy to learn, latin inspired dance fitness class.
Where to Dance
Most gyms will offer some type of dance class. These often focus more on fitness and continuous movement and less on the technique. Check out your local newspapers and events calendars for dance classes. You will learn the proper footwork but may not work up as much of a sweat especially when first learning the steps. For dances requiring a partner, many classes will accept a certain number of singles and pair them with another individual.
You can also dance any time there is music at parties, certain restaurants, weddings, or just your living room. If you are nervous and want to learn some dancing basics before venturing out you can purchase instructional dvds or watch a YouTube How-to Video.
Even if you have 2 left feet that doesn’t mean you can’t still have fun while exercising. Not only will learning dance steps work your body it also exercises your brain and may even help delay the onset of dementia. Dancing is the perfect blend of physical exertion, mental agility and social interaction.
If you need any more inspiration to put on your dancing shoes, watch the following video of an older couple, Bev and Hap, (83 & 68 years old) surprise the viewers on the tv show, Live To Dance, by dancing to contemporary music and showing off some victory push-ups at the end. One of the judges, Paula Abdul, remarks that the couple exemplifies what dance is like and what it does for your spirit, soul, body and mind and the entire world.