There’s something about grooving to the sound of music that seems to take all of our cares away.
Maybe it’s the rhythm of your favorite tunes or the heart-pumping workout that gets you up and off the couch. Or perhaps it’s the challenge of mastering the more complicated moves that brings you so much joy.
Regardless of your reasons, one thing’s for sure: The physical, mental, and emotional health benefits of dancing are endless.
Benefits of dance
Whether you’re 80 years young or 8 years old, engaging in physical activities that involve dance changes you.
From better physical and mental health to a boost in emotional and social well-being, moving your body to the sound of music can transform your life.
One of the greatest things about dance is that anyone can participate. If you’re able to move, even if it’s only your upper body, you can dance.
This equalizer is what makes dance so popular with people who typically shy away from other forms of exercise.
Can be a social activity
While you may prefer to bust a move when no one is watching, there’s something incredible about dancing with others.
Whether you join a ballroom or belly dancing class, dance with friends, or get shaking with your kids or grandkids, being around other people while dancing is good for your social and emotional health.
Helps boost your mood
“Movement and dance are extremely expressive, which can allow you to escape and let loose,” Tylicki said. It’s this “letting loose” that helps improve your mental and emotional health by reducing stress, decreasing the symptoms of anxiety and depression, and boosting your self-esteem.
Boosts cognitive performance
If you need a reason to get moving, consider this: A lot of research shows how dancing can maintain and even boost your ability to think as you age.
But how does this happen? Well, according to some studies , scientists have found that the areas of the brain that control memory and skills, such as planning and organizing, improve with exercise like dance.
Plus, unlike other forms of exercise, dance has the additional benefits of improving balance through rhythm and music.
Challenges your brain
If you’ve ever tried tap dancing, then you know exactly what we mean by dance challenging your brain.
Tylicki points out that the brain power you need to access for dance, specifically, requires you to focus on both the constant changing of movement and recalling moves and patterns.
This is an excellent form of mental exercise for your mind, regardless of your age.
PhysicalDance is exercise, so the physical benefits of dancing will be similar to that of other cardio activities.
Improves cardiovascular health
The heart-pumping health benefits of dance are right in line with the Department of Health and Human Services’ physical activity guidelines for adults. It states for health benefits, adults should do:
- at least 150 minutes to 300 minutes per week of moderate-intensity exercise, or
- 75 minutes to 150 minutes per week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity
Professional ballroom dancer and certified personal trainer Leon Turetsky says that all styles of dance make for great cardio workouts since your heart rate gets challenged from executing the different moves.
Improves balance and strength
Professional dancer Jonathan Tylicki, the director of education for AKT, a boutique fitness concept rooted in dance, says one of the reasons dance is such a great form of physical fitness is because it incorporates movements on all planes of motion and from all directions.
“Movements that we typically do in our daily life, like walking, taking the stairs, and common workouts like treadmills and cycling, occur in the sagittal plane, but dance works your body from all planes, including lateral and rotational, which turns on and conditions all muscles, meaning no muscle is left behind,” he said.
This type of movement not only increases strength, it also improves balance.
Gentle on your body
Many forms of dancing, such as ballroom, are appropriate for people with limited mobility or chronic health issues.
If you have concerns about the intensity of a class, talk with your doctor and the instructor before starting the class. They can help you with any modifications, if needed.
Benefits by type of dance
All dance styles, ranging from traditional ballet and Bollywood to funk, have physical, mental, and emotional benefits. The key to how dance will benefit you is to find the style you enjoy the most.
Here are a few types to get you started:
This is a very graceful and technical form of dance, but it’s also perfect for all ages. It’s universally known that ballet is the foundational style for all dance.
Turetsky says that’s because you develop a basic understanding of:
- core strength
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Belly dancing is a great style to start with, especially if you want to learn how to express yourself by using your stomach muscles, core, arms, and hips.
“It is a style of dance that is very rhythmical and fun,” Turetsky said. It’s more suited to adults than kids.
“Hip-hop is a very free and raw dance form where you get to express yourself to music with your entire body and posture,” Turetsky said.
Hip-hop style is perfect for all ages, and it’s especially great for people who want to dance to popular and modern music with lots of personality and style.
“Studying tap is like taking a music theory class with your body,” Corella said.
Tap dancers learn how to hear different layers of music, subdivide rhythms, and create additional, complementary layers of rhythm on top of the music.
“They are instrumentalists as well as dancers, playing as part of the percussion section,” he added.
Tips for dancing wellWhen it comes to tips for dancing well, the experts all agree that the most important thing is to have fun. Beyond that, some other tips include:
Let go of insecurity and fear
The first step to dancing well is to let go of your insecurity and fear. This is true regardless of your level.
“Dancing — be it in front of a mirror, in a class, or in the middle of the dance floor in a nightclub, requires you to silence that voice in your mind that says you can’t do it or that people are judging you,” says Corella.
Dancing, he says, requires you to trust yourself, trust your training, and give yourself permission to fly.
Start with a strong foundation
Turetsky recommends that everyone do some ballet training, even if you want to focus on a different dance style.
That’s because “ballet will teach you proper body alignment and how to use your core, so that no matter what movement you do, you’ll be able to find your balance,” he explains.
Practice outside of classesWhile taking dance classes is very important, on top of that, Turetsky says you must also practice on your own to solidify the information and make sure your body develops the appropriate muscle memory. This is when having a mirror at home comes in handy!
Master the rhythm and timing before styling
Many people focus on the fun “styling” part right away, says Turetsky.
But if you’re in a class to learn a specific style of dance, Turetsky says you need to get the basic timing and rhythm down first, and only then add your arms, personality, and flavor on top of it.
Position yourself correctly in class
You can do this by standing closer to the middle of the class, instead of the corner.
“This is especially helpful for beginners since you can see the instructor well, and the instructor can see you and help give you any corrections,” explains Tylicki.
The benefits of dance encompass all areas of health, including physical, mental, and emotional. Not only does it give you a way to express yourself and have fun, but it also counts toward your cardiovascular exercise minutes for the week.
So, grab a friend, join a beginner or intro class, and get moving!