By Brianna Marmot
Do the lose-your-belly boogie!
The beauty of dance as a form of exercise is that it doesn’t feel or even look much like formal exercise. For one, you can smile while dancing; that’s not something you can normally do while running uphill or lifting dumbbells over your head.
For those who don’t care for traditional exercise, dance can be the path to amazing health, fitness, weight loss, and fun. You just have to get over the queasy feeling of wearing a leotard or doing the stanky leg in front of others. The health benefits are so worth it. Check ’em out and then get more ideas on how to improve your health and happiness with our list of 50 Easy Resolutions to Change Your Life
Rock climbing, one of the most physically taxing sports, burns about 240 calories per half hour. Aerobic dance burns off nearly as many, and targets abdominal fat, too. A recent study at Duke University found that people who did aerobic exercise shed about 2.5 square inches of belly fat over the course of eight months.
Researchers at the University of Hawaii at Manoa analyzed 18 studies from around that world monitoring people ages 52 to 87 who participated in all types of dance, including ballroom, contemporary, cultural, pop, and jazz styles. They attributed the subjects’ robust health, cardiovascular endurance, balance, and muscular strength to regular dancing. Speaking of cardio, make sure you’re not guilty of any of these 12 Worst Cardio Mistakes You’re Making
A new study on the impact of exercise on diabetes reported in the journal Diabetologia suggests that people who tally 150 minutes a week of brisk walking, cycling, dance, or other mildly vigorous exercise can reduce their risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 26 percent.
“Dance lets a person express what’s going on inside […] it’s psychotherapeutic,” says Paula Chandler-Paramore, a dance therapy doctoral candidate and spokesperson for the National Dance Fitness and Health Association. In fact, a Swedish study in the journal Pediatrics in 2013 showed that participating in a twice-weekly dance class helped 59 adolescent girls improve symptoms of depression and feelings of low self-esteem and low body confidence.
Dancing has been linked with improved balance and reaction time, fine motor performance, and the temporary relief of symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, according to dance psychologist Peter Lovatt, Ph.D., who researches the health benefits of dance for many years at the University of Hertfordshire in England.
A study in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine observed 488 people from ages 75 to 95 over a period of three years, paying close attention to their leisure activities. Of the 11 most popular activities—including reading, playing board games, tennis, swimming, and team sports—only dancing was associated with protecting the mind against dementia. “For the senior citizens, it’s a great way to help keep their mind sharp when they learn the steps; the music is mind memory,” says Chandler-Paramore.
Dancing with others is a great way to bond with new friends. But if you want to feel extra close to your dance buddies, mimic their moves. Researchers from the University of Oxford had groups of students dance to fast music in and out of rhythm with one another. It turned out that students felt a greater sense of bonding when they danced in sync.
Taking lessons at a dance studio is one of the easiest ways to learn to dance for fitness because you get hands-on instruction and group learning is so much fun. There are classes for every taste, from classical dances like ballet and waltzing, or more ethnic dancing like belly dancing, salsa, tango, and mambo. If you’re looking for something more youthful, try modern, jazz, hip-hop, or street-style dance. Find a class or individual teacher locally through findadancestudio.com.
If you’re intimidated about dancing in front of people, then dance in front of your computer screen. There are hundreds of YouTube videos demonstrating dance moves to all genres of music. Medium tempo hits from the ’60s and ’70s are easiest for beginners. And dance tracks clocking in around 119 to 122 BPM are just right to step to the beat and make some heat. Need an amazing fat-burning playlist?