In the U.S., many of us struggle to stay active. While studies have shown that physically active kids tend to be more physically active throughout their lives, the unfortunate truth is that all too many children are leading sedentary lifestyles and may continue to do so throughout adulthood. That said, spending hours at the gym may not be everyone’s cup of tea — and it doesn’t have to be in order to stay fit. Finding an alternative activity you actually enjoy may be the key to fitness success.
Take dancing, for example. It might be classified as an art form, but it’s also one of the best things you can do for your body (and your mind, too!). Whether you decide to take a ballroom class, sweat it out in Zumba, or simply throw a private dance party to shake off your emotions, here are five reasons why you should kick up your heels, do the cha-cha, and raise the roof.
It’s a complete body workout
First and foremost, dancing is an incredible physical activity. In just thirty minutes of dancing, you can burn anywhere from 200 to 400 calories. It’s also a low-impact activity, which can make it more accessible to people across all ability levels. Although you won’t rely on any exercise equipment, you’ll be able to work every muscle in your body. You can lose weight, become more toned, and improve your cardiovascular health when you take up dancing. That’s definitely something to celebrate.
It can help to prevent injuries
Another great thing about dance is how applicable it is to all age levels. Young children love to dance, as do seniors. In fact, dance classes may be offered in senior living homes and community centers to give older people an opportunity to keep improving their health. Dancing can improve flexibility, balance, and spatial awareness at any age. That’s especially pertinent to seniors, however, as this can reduce their risk of falls. Dancing can also ease joint pain and stiffness, which can improve the overall quality of life for many older people. Even in younger adults, learning how to dance can help to prevent knee injuries and even allow you to actually protect yourself in the event of a fall. If you’re more in touch with your body and the way it naturally wants to move, you’ll be in a better position (literally!) to help keep it in the best shape possible.
It can keep you mentally sharp
The benefits of dancing aren’t limited to the physical. Studies have shown that dance can actually improve cognitive function. One key study found that dancing was one of the main leisure activities among older adults associated with decreased dementia risk. Although exercise is important in that regard, the unique demands of dance (like learning choreography and coordinating movement) might be able to do a lot more for the brain. Other studies have found that dancing improves “white matter” (i.e., connective tissue) in the brains of older adults. Since this tissue tends to break down as we age, dancing can preserve our mental capacity and keep us thinking and moving for a long time to come.
It’s a great way to stay social
Don’t underestimate the social aspects of dance. Square dances and party dances have long since been a part of our social history, but we don’t exactly partake in those activities in the same way today. Instead, we might attend a group class at the community center, ballroom studio, or gym. That’s just as important for social aspects, as these classes give us opportunities to bond with others. Studies have also revealed that dancing in sync with others can actually release endorphins that encourage social bonding. If nothing else, it can be a great way to make new friends — something many people crave in adulthood.
It can ease stress and depression
The effects of stress are widespread and significant, but dance can make life a whole lot more bearable. Not only will dancing release endorphins and reduce cortisol levels, but it can also provide a creative outlet to work through any frustrations you’re experiencing. Therapists have been known to prescribe dancing as therapy for social anxieties and studies have also shown that dance can lift depressive symptoms. It may not be a cure-all, but it can certainly be an effective component of maintaining your mental health.
Of course, dancing can be a fun way to let loose. But it may also end up being an important part of your routine. If you want to stay youthful and prioritize your physical fitness, consider dancing your blues away and cutting a rug every once in a while.