Dancing has been around since the Middle Ages, dating back to when kings and queens called on dancers to perform for their courts. There is good reason dance has stayed relevant through the ages. Have you seen the bodies of the professional dancers on “Dancing With The Stars?” Dancing can give you the body you want. But in addition, dance also improves your mood, sense of well-being, your mind, your propensity to laugh and it delays many of the effects of aging. Most importantly though, many types of dance are also load-bearing, cardio enhancing activities that strengthen your bones and give you an aerobics workout that flat out torches calories. The positive effects of all types of dancing are well documented. You can quick step for balance, tango to fight depression and Zumba to work out your entire body and reap huge cardio benefits.
Dance programs can be undertaken at any age. In fact, dancing gives you all of the benefits of traditional exercise but has the added factor of improving cognitive function. The body and mind both improve with dance, especially free dance, which requires literally hundreds of rapid fire decisions that strengthen neural pathways.
Many studies on dance show that participants of all ages improved in many areas such as gait, walking speed, response time, and fine motor performance. Despite the tremendous physical and mental benefits of dancing, many people remain very shy about dancing or feel they are not good dancers. The great news is that with time, anyone can learn the steps to many different types of dance. Fast-paced dance garners the most physical fitness rewards. Additionally, many of those who start dancing tend to stay with it because it is an enjoyable activity compared to other forms of exercise. The point is, just do it.
When utilizing dance as exercise make sure you change it up. Change how you dance, learn different types of dancing. Move your body in hundreds of different way. This is what creates new neural pathways.
But more importantly, more energetic forms of dance such as ballet, the Cajun Jitterbug, Irish set dance and Scottish Country dance, are, like Zumba, excellent for working the whole body and provide significant cardio results. The strong legs and core you see on ballet dancers shows how ballet can strengthen many different parts of the body.
Dancing uses several brain functions at one time: kinesthetic, rational, musical and emotional, which in turn increases your neural connectivity. In addition to the cognitive and mood benefits of dancing, we want to understand the physical/body benefits of dancing. First, most dancing, if done at a fairly rapid pace, is great aerobic exercise with its known benefits of increasing cardiovascular health, torching calories, tightening the core, legs and arms and inducing overall fat loss and increasing muscle. There is a reason why dancers have such enviable bodies, with their long, lithe forms. Their defined, sculpted muscles are a tangible result of their dance workouts.
Most of us can dance. Yes, we might look silly in front of our bathroom mirror, but just keep going and change it up as you go. Decide left or right, backwards or forward for each move. Start slow and build up your endurance.
Not only will your body definitely look better after a sustained workout program, but by adding virtually any type of dance: Zumba, ballet, and/or free dance of any type, your clothes fit better, your mood will improve, coordination is better, mental acuity is enhanced, and balance is improved.
All types of dance can and will make you a fitter, stronger and smarter. Your local community center and/or gym may be a good place to begin if you would like to start dance in a group setting. And there are many dance studios that offer a multitude of classes in many different types of dance. The benefits of dancing are so well documented that some type of dance activity simply must be a part of your overall fitness plan.
Ramona Fortanbary is a Northern Virginia-based freelance writer and editor. Ramona has served as a writer in many industries. She has been a newspaper editor, corporate communications manager and public affairs specialist and senior writer-editor for the U.S. government. Ramona has studied at Chapman and Harvard universities. Her interests include fitness, reading, traveling and volunteer work. Ramona currently serves on the board of Heart Marks Art Therapy, a 501(c)(3) organization offering free art therapy sessions to at risk segments of our society. Follow Ramona on Twitter.
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