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The Health Benefits of Dancing

It’s never been easier or more popular to shake your booty and reap the many health benefits of dance. Beginner classes for adults with or without partners are widely available at dance studios, community centers and many gyms. Salsa, swing, hip hop, jazz, ballroom, belly and ballet: It doesn’t matter what type of dance you enjoy, as long as you are moving to the beat, your body benefits. Dancing makes exercising fun, requires no special equipment (you don’t need spandex, sequins or a spray tan) and is suitable for all ages. And whether you’re looking to lose weight, boost your mood, maintain your flexibility or keep your mind sharp, dancing does it all. Five, six, seven, eight!

Dancing delivers a total body workout. Dancing provides a great, overall low-impact aerobic workout. Like other forms of aerobic exercise, dance strengthens the heart, lungs and circulatory system. But the varied movements also improve core strength, coordination, balance, flexibility, muscle tone and spatial awareness. Unlike some other aerobic exercises, like running, most types of dance can be easily modified to meet different physical limitations.

Dancing helps with weight loss. Dance styles that require fast movement and leave you breathless, such as salsa or swing dancing, can help with weight loss. If you are trying to shed some pounds through dance, be sure to  select a style that requires intense movement—put your all into it, and do it often. Dancing can also help you reach the recommended goal of at least 10,000 steps a day, which can help keep weight in check. One study found that those participating in a square dance traveled the equivalent of five miles in one night.

Dancing strengthens bones. A pleasurable way to increase bone mass and improve muscle strength, dancing can be especially helpful for those at risk for low bone density. Certain dance steps, especially those that get you moving from side to side, improve the strength of your tibia, femur and other leg bones—which bear the majority of your body’s weight. By building up your bone mass, you can ward off or slow down the progression of osteoporosis.

Dancing sharpens your mental skills. A study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that dancing is linked to a lower rate of dementia. In addition to the mind-boosting increase in blood flow to the brain that you get during any form of physical activity, researchers suspect that memorizing dance steps and staying in sync with the rhythm of the music promotes the growth of new neurons and activates connections between existing ones. Dance class can foster new connections and nurture existing relationships, both of which have been linked to a lower risk of cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s.

Dancing boosts your mood. If you feel your spirits lifting as you dance, you’re not imagining things: Socializing with friends and connecting with your partner can promote the release of the feel-good hormones oxytocin and serotonin. Plus, research has shown that touching a loved one, which you’ll do while you cha cha around a dance hall or wedding reception, lowers your blood pressure and pulse—two things that can reduce help your risk of heart disease.

Dancing improves your overall health and well-being. In addition to the above health benefits, dancing has been shown to help improve other markers not just of improved health, but quality of life. An American Heart Association study showed that older patients who suffered heart failure, and who subsequently enrolled in a waltz class, had improved oxygen levels, artery elasticity and other cardiac indicators compared to people who did other forms of exercise. What’s more, the dancing group experienced better sleep, increased sexual activity and reduced anxiety levels.

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