I Don’t Feel Like Dancin’

Well maybe you should!

I was skyping with my parents in Germany when they mentioned that they are doing a dance course. They are in their 60s and can both dance (like all East Germans!) but they thought it would be a fun thing to do, and gets them active. What a good idea! And it gave me a topic for a blog right there and then. I have over time heard several things about dancing being beneficial for our health – beyond the obvious exercise it gives you. Time to dig a bit deeper!

I really miss dancing. I think it’s a British thing that the only time people get to dance is at weddings unless you take classes. Where I come from (deepest East Germany) you learn to dance when you are somewhere between 14 and 16 and people dance at EVERY function. (to Paul’s discomfort). I love it! Polka, Waltz and Disco Fox are dances everyone knows. If you want to show off a little you can add Cha Cha, Tango and Foxtrot. I look forward to any sort of party in Germany as I get to dance! Well at least I get to practice my moves every Monday at Mencap. Not the same as flying across the dance floor with a partner though…

These days, people love to watch other people dance. Competitive dance shows like So You Think You Can Dance and Dancing With the Stars are dominating the world of reality television. What you may not realize, however, is that if you get off the couch and dance yourself, it’s a great way to keep your body and mind healthy. Studies show that dancing can help you lose weight, stay flexible, reduce stress, make friends, and more.

Dancing can be a way to stay fit for people of all ages, shapes and sizes. It has a wide range of physical and mental benefits including:

  • improved condition of your heart and lungs
  • increased muscular strength, endurance and motor fitness
  • increased aerobic fitness
  • improved muscle tone and strength
  • weight management
  • stronger bones and reduced risk of osteoporosis
  • better coordination, agility and flexibility
  • improved balance and spatial awareness
  • increased physical confidence
  • improved mental functioning
  • improved general and psychological wellbeing
  • greater self-confidence and self-esteem
  • better social skills.

It’s a well long list!

As dancing is a form of exercise it’s pretty clear to me that it can help you lose weight. A study in the Journal of Physiological Anthropology found that an exercise programme of aerobic dance training is just as helpful for losing weight and increasing aerobic power as cycling and jogging. And I would say it’s much more fun too! Look at this nifty little chart I found:

dance calories.JPG

Dancing requires fast paced, continuous exertion which is what makes it a form of cardiovascular exercise. It is also a great activity for those at risk for cardiovascular disease. People with heart failure who took up waltzing improved their heart health, breathing, and quality of life significantly compared to those who biked or walked on a treadmill for exercise, noted an Italian study.

At the same time as being a cardiovascular exercise it also involves a number of difficult postures and even jumps which provides the muscles with resistance. This is what you need in order to develop extra strength and muscle tone, and thus dancing will help to flatten stomachs, remove ‘bingo wings’ and create more toned legs and buttocks. If you look at professional dancers you will see how well toned and proportioned their bodies are – you will start to change the same way once you add dance to your own schedule.

And as if that isn’t enough dancing also increases posture, flexibility, balance and energy levels.

Dance not only instils grace, but it also helps you age gracefully. According to a study in The New England Journal of Medicine, dancing may boost your memory and prevent you from developing dementia as you get older. Science reveals that aerobic exercise can reverse volume loss in the hippocampus, the part of the brain that controls memory. The hippocampus naturally shrinks during late adulthood, which often leads to impaired memory and sometimes dementia. Dance improves our memory by making us recall steps, routines and dance patterns making it a great mental exercise as well as keeping you physically fit. The big benefit is that increasing mental exercise keeps your mind young, quick, alert and open. And dancing better for your memory than solving cross words. You end up learning the solution to most questions in crosswords while all the co-ordination needed when dancing gives you a much better mental workout.

In a controlled study in the Journal of Applied Gerontology, researchers found that partner dance and musical accompaniment can help bring about stress relief. To be honest – I didn’t need a study for that one!. Dancing around our living room with the kids is definitely one of the best forms of stress relief for me!

Dancing really does lift your spirits, a study tested the effects of dancing on people with depression. Patients who participated in an upbeat group dance showed the fewest depression symptoms and the most vitality.

And of course a dance class is the perfect setting to make new friends and branch out socially. Maintaining positive relationships may just rank up there with healthy eating and exercise. Being socially engaged leads to increased happiness, reduced stress, and a stronger immune system.

So what you are you waiting for? Give it a go! Don’t worry about having two left feet. Everyone can learn to dance. Just find a style that works for you. There are certainly plenty of dance classes around where I live. Anything from Line Dancing to Pole Dancing (with Latin and Street somewhere in between there) Have a look at https://www.dancenearyo

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