Arthur Murray Vaughan Dancers wowed audience for St. Michael’s College School at  the “Gift of Glamour”  fashion show. (Nov. 18, 2010)

Let’s Dance to Health

Dancing can be magical and transforming. It can breathe new life into a tired soul; make a spirit soar; unleash locked-away creativity; unite generations and cultures; inspire new romances or rekindle old ones; trigger long-forgotten memories; and turn sadness into joy, if only during the dance.

Like other moderate, low-impact, weight bearing activities, such as brisk walking, cycling or aerobics, dancing can help:

  • strengthen bones and muscles without hurting your joints
  • tone your entire body
  • improve your posture and balance, which can prevent falls
  • increase your stamina and flexibility
  • reduce stress and tension
  • build confidence
  • provide opportunities to meet people, and
  • ward off illnesses like diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, osteoporosis, and depression

So if you’re tired of the treadmill and looking for a fun way to stay fit and healthy, it might be time to kick up your heels!

Dancing is a great activity for people age 50 and older because you can vary the level of physical exertion so easily, according to Marian Simpson, a retired dance instructor and president of the National Dance Association.

For instance, people just getting back into dance or physical activity can start out more slowly, then “step it up a notch” by adding things like dips and turns as they progress, says Simpson. The more energy you put into a dance, the more vigorous your workout will be.

Although some dance forms are more rigorous than others — for instance, jazz as opposed to the waltz — all beginners’ classes should start you out gradually. Ballroom dance, line dancing, and other kinds of social dance are most popular among people 50 and older. That’s because they allow people to get together and interact socially, while getting some exercise and having fun at the same time. Dancers who have lost partners can come alone and meet new people, since many classes don’t require that you attend as a couple.

Exercise and Physical Benefits of Dancing

Exercise and Physical Fitness

With the pressures of job and social obligations tugging us every which way, it’s more and more difficult to find time for exercise. Maybe that’s why Americans are struggling with their weight and health more than ever. It’s no secret that moderate exercise and sensible eating habits are the key to remaining trim and fit. However, the thought of spending thirty minutes on a treadmill, or jogging around the block five times is out of the question for many of us. Dancing works like a stress and tension reducer. For people on a hectic schedule it can become a passion that helps you improve your attitude and increase your confidence in both social and business situations. That’s what makes dance the ideal exercise! After all, dancing is a mild aerobic workout, minus the boring part! When you take dance lessons, you make exercise a fun and enjoyable social event, every night of the week. Your dance “work out” takes place with pleasant music and everyone’s in a good mood. It’s fun.

Consider these dance facts:

  • Dance contributes to increased personal confidence.
  • Olympic athletes often include dance in their training to sharpen their control, agility, speed and balance.
  • Dance is considered to be one of the top five physical activities, out of 60 studied.
  • Dance contributes to good posture and body alignment.
  • Dancing encourages gentle stretching.
  • Dance increases your flexibility and stamina.
  • As an aerobic exercise, dance benefits your cardiovascular system as you swing and sway from hips to shoulders.
  • Some doctors recommend thirty minutes of dance, three times per week.

Ever since the International Olympic Committee gave ballroom dancing provisional recognition, it has been getting a lot of attention as a true athletic activity. One look at the fitness level and physiques of professional ballroom competitors, trainers and dance teachers is proof of its virtues.

Ballroom dance is a rigorous activity that uses the larger muscle groups, and is usually done over the course of an hour, or an entire evening,” said George B. Theiss, President of Arthur Murray International. “It’s most frequently compared to ice dancing, and no one would question the athletic ability of an ice skater. Since we work without gliding across ice, it’s possible that a competitive ballroom dancer might even be in better shape than a figure skater.

Many people turn to ballroom dance when more traditional exercise programs fall by the wayside, either because of injuries or sheer boredom. Ballroom dance is a low impact activity. This makes it accessible to people of at any age or fitness level. With less emphasis on “going for the burn” and more on having fun; the weight loss, improved circulation and aerobic conditioning emerges as a wonderful side effect.

There are many health and physical benefits associated with dancing. Many new dancers find that their physical fitness, body language and physical confidence improve as they progress in ballroom dancing.

Would you like to lose weight and have more shapely legs?

Dancing for 30 minutes burns calories equivalent to walking, swimming and cycling. Repeatedly doing dance steps is a cardiovascular exercise and works out the major muscle groups. In a short period of time of dancing, you will burn fat tissue and increase muscle mass in your legs. As you continue to dance you will experience an increase in the strength, size and firmness of your legs. You can think of it like this: every time you go dancing, it is like going to the gym.

Now isn’t this kind of exercise a lot more fun than doing squats in the gym?

Do you slouch and have poor posture?

Ballroom dancing will improve your posture and the way you walk. You will develop correct postural movement if you practice regularly dancing over time. Gradually, you will train your muscle memory to correct the habitual movements that have led to poor posture. As you learn to dance, your normal movement will improve. Your self-image will improve as you walk tall and straight.

The way to accelerate this process is to consciously apply the elements of balance, timing and carriage of your body to your daily routine.

Are you stressed and tired most of the time?

Dancing will alleviate stress and increase your feeling of well-being. Stress is a daily reality for us all and can lead to some serious health problems. Consistent dancing exercise over time leads to lower blood pressure and lower cholesterol levels.

In today’s fast pace of life, reducing stress is a necessity, not an option. Dancing can give you a break from difficult circumstances. Dancing is a great stress relief for both your body and your mind. Through dancing, you can release emotional blockages (e.g. anger, sadness, worry) in your nervous system and learn how to relax through movements.

Would you like to have more fun and enjoyment in your life?

Women dance because of the music. Men dance because of the women. They both love to dance because it is fun and intimate. Not only is it fun, ballroom dancing balances your mind and body, strengthens your muscles, improves your self-confidence, and maintains your health. What’s not to like?

Dancing can bring about a wide range of physical and mental benefits:

Healthier heart and lungs
Regular exercise can lead to a slower heart rate, lower blood pressure and an improved cholesterol profile. Experts typically recommend 30 to 40 minutes of continuous activity three to four times a week. Dancing may not provide all the conditioning you need, but it can help. The degree of cardiovascular conditioning depends on how vigorously you dance, how long you dance continuously and how regularly you do it.

Stronger muscles
Though not exactly an evening of lifting weights, you’ll discover that an evening of dancing will work many different muscle groups. Though not exactly what you would use to gain a lot of muscle mass, regular dancing will improve a lot of muscle groups especially in your torso and legs helping improve muscle tone and strength through repetition of movement.

Stronger bones and a reduced risk of osteoporosis
The side-to-side movements of many dances strengthen your weight bearing bones (tibia, fibula and femur) and can help prevent or slow loss of bone mass (osteoporosis).

Better coordination, agility, and flexibility
The more you study dancing, the more you will discover that there are always new challenges that will push the limits of your coordination, agility, and flexibility. In pursuing a greater understanding of dance technique and style, you will discover that it will challenge you while helping you gain better coordination, agility, and flexibility.

Improved balance and enhanced spatial awareness
Because dancing requires movement, you will develop awareness for how your body moves, as well as the ability to control how your body moves and balances. Because you are moving so differently than you do in other tasks, dancing will challenge your spatial awareness as well, giving you a better understanding and comfort in maneuvering your own body especially when a partner is involved.

Increased physical confidence
In knowing your body and understanding your limits, you will gain confidence in yourself. Dancing regularly can help you understand yourself better as you also improve your physical condition and help you find confidence in yourself.

Improved mental functioning
Dancing is as much a mental challenge as a physical one. Moving by yourself is something most people can do without much thought, but the game changes when there is another person involved. Social dances require thought in addition to movement and can help keep your mind sharp.

Improved emotional well-being
Dance provides an emotional outlet in which a person can truly reflect his or her feelings through body movement. The ability to dance is present in everyone, it only needs to be cultivated through sound instruction methods. Then you’re on your own, expressing yourself with passion and flair.

Help counteract unwanted weight gain
Dancing can burn as many calories as walking, swimming or riding a bicycle. During a half-hour of sustained dancing you can burn between 200 and 400 calories. Imagine what a whole night of dancing can do for you.

Stress management
Because dancing demands your attention, it will divert your thoughts from the stresses of your day. The thinking required to pay attention to your partner, listen to the music, and create the journey that is the dance pushes aside all other thoughts. Plus, socializing with other dancers is another factor. Let’s not forget that dancing is FUN, and if you have to escape stress, you might as well have fun!

If you’re recovering from heart or knee surgery, movement may be part of your rehabilitation. Dancing is a positive alternative to aerobic dance or jogging. Because there are many different styles of dance, you’ll have option that will help you regain lost mobility or strength without the risk of re-injury that many other sports or activities would have.

Dancing contains a social component that solitary fitness endeavors don’t. It gives you an opportunity to develop strong social ties which contribute to self-esteem and a positive outlook. Plus, it’s nice to have a bunch of friends to go out and have good clean fun with!

Strengthen intimate relationships
I don’t think you’ll find a married couple who dance together and regret it. Dancing is a very unique and special thing to be able to share with a spouse or loved one. It is a way to spend some very quality time together without distraction, both enjoying each other’s company and sharing a fun activity together.

How Many calories will you burn while dancing?

That depends on the type of dancing. Here’s a range of some of the most popular varieties, based on a 150-pound person, per hour:

* Swing dancing: 235+ calories/hour

* Ballroom dancing Slow: 206+

* Ballroom dancing Medium: 492

* Ballroom dancing Fast: 378+

* Salsa dancing: 420+

Another Great Resource for Ballroom and Latin Dancing Info:

Dancesport UK  –    http://www.dancesport.uk.com

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