Dance Your Way to a Better Body
Sculpting your new physique might be as simple as busting out your old cheer skirts. Well, perhaps not that simple, but you’d be taking a step in the right direction. As it turns out, dancing can help unlock some rather significant health benefits, as TIME Magazine explains:
“When you cut a rug, you can expend more than 300 calories every half-hour, according to a report from the University of Brighton in the UK. That meets or exceeds the amount of energy you burn during an easy run or swim, the report shows.”
What makes dancing such great exercise, and what other advantages does it hold for your body? Those are exactly the kinds of questions we’re going to tackle today, along with a few examples of dance workouts you can add to your routine, even if you don’t have any extensive prior experience.
Dancing as a Form of Physical Exercise
As we alluded to above, dancing functions as a low-impact aerobic workout, one that can boost your cardiovascular health, flexibility, muscular endurance, overall body composition and muscular strength. Unlike running, which will simply increase cardiovascular ability and slim you down, dancing provides these benefits with the added bonus of helping you develop balance, agility, coordination, power, reactivity and speed.
Referring back to that TIME Health article, the comparison between running and dancing is like driving on a freeway versus driving through crowded city streets. The amount of extra movement, the “starting, stopping and changing directions,” is what helps burn more energy and further train your body.
Of course, like with any form of physical exercise, you get out of dancing what you put into it, and the more intense the step, the more substantial the benefits are for your body. Thankfully, though, getting into dance isn’t particularly tricky, as it seems most humans are “hard-wired” to enjoy it, at least on a base level.
According to Women’s Health, the propensity to start swinging and shaking once the music begins is a universal imperative:
“The instinctual rhythm response starts in your brain, where musical vibrations light up timing circuits that prompt you to reflexively bust a move. These same circuits are intertwined with your brain’s communication and memory systems”
So, no matter your level of familiarity or experience with the art of dance, there’s always going to be a part of you deep inside that wants to give it a try — all the more reason to start. Add to that the fact that dancing is fun, and you’re left with a form of exercise you’re more likely to maintain in your regular schedule.
For many, there’s an instant psychological aversion to the word “exercise.” Dancing, on the other hand, carries connotations of exhilaration, social interaction, and joyful movement — far more glamorous than a 30-minute slog on the treadmill.
The Benefits of Dance Don’t End There
Let’s say the prospect of increasing your physical attributes is intriguing, but not enough for you to consider dance as a regular workout. You’d do well to note, in that instance, that the benefits of dance extend well beyond what it can do for your body.
Dancing, you see, engages body, mind, and spirit. There are, of course, the mood enhancing and stress reducing properties that you’d also associate with any form of moderate physical activity. Dance goes even deeper, though, because unlike other forms of exercise, it challenges the mind in a manner similar to playing an instrument, learning a language, or playing a game.
Dancing regularly can help reduce instances of mental degeneration, dementia, and the like. In addition to the reduction in brain diseases, dancing helps to improve your mental clarity, memory, etc. You can think of it as a tool to optimize your thinking.
Then there are the social aspects of dance. When you elect to dance in a group setting, you get that extra boost of energy. Spurred on by your peers to give it your all, every facet of the dancing experience is enhanced to its peak. If you’re the type who tends to get anxious in social settings, the inclusive nature of dance could serve as a method to curtail your nervousness and help you thrive instead of hide when there’s a group around.
Tips to Get You Started
So you want to start dancing on a regular basis? That’s good. Make sure you keep a few factors in mind going into it:
Don’t overexert yourself — If you’re a newbie to dance moves, you should start off low-intensity and gradually work your way up to the complicated stuff. Trying to go head first into the “deep waters” is a great way to get yourself injured.
Warm-up before you start — As a corollary to our previous point, you should try to ease your body into any kind of workout, especially dancing. This will reduce the likelihood of injury, and make your entire session more enjoyable. Some “light work,” along the lines of running in place, jumping jacks, and calisthenics, is usually suitable for this purpose.
Dress for success — Make sure you’re wearing comfortable clothes that will move with your body and footwear that will support your movements. This, again, will result in fewer injuries and more fun overall.
If you’re looking for tips on what type of dances are great for beginners, be sure to check out the Greatist’s list of Dance Workout Videos and Refinery 29’s 10 Easy Cardio Dance Videos You Can Do In Your Living Room. Remember, start slow, work your way into it, and, above all, have fun.