Want to increase your stamina and lung power while lowering your blood pressure, purging toxins, and losing weight? Get up and dance!
Sure, cutting the rug is great recreation but did you know that it’s also one of the best body-building activities going? As an added bonus, you get to meet new people who share a common interest that doesn’t involve sitting around watching other people dance.
Televised competitive dance shows are all the rage and that’s fine. But dare to take the next step – as it were – and find a local dance studio or MeetUp group for some hands-on action.
Think you have two left feet and can’t dance? Think again. “If you can walk, you can dance,” my belly dance instructor used to say. And she was right. When you really pay attention to how people dance, they fall into two basic categories: people who move or shuffle more or less rhythmically to the music and the stunners who perform pirouettes (ballet circles on tippy-toe) around everybody else.
You must understand that every person’s level of ability and accomplishment is different – but even though there are “born dancers,” everyone can learn how to step and sway with the beat. And that, my friends, is dancing.
Some of you are thinking, “I couldn’t possibly get up in front of people and dance.”
You might be right…today. But start by busting some modest moves in the privacy and comfort of your home or other space safe from the friendly ridicule you fear. As you get better, stronger, and more flexible, confidence will build.
Don’t know where to begin the beguine? Don’t worry, be happy – there are scads of self-help videos that walk you through the paces (literally).
This one will show you how to master three simple hip hop dance moves for beginners. This basic lesson illustrates the point made earlier that if you can walk you can dance.
Another awesome online dance rhythm tutorial for beginners focuses on hip swings, shoulder lifts, torso twists, and more.
Find a dance instructor – or several – who appeals to you and plays the music you like. You can even learn how to master simple ballroom dancing with a minimum of preparation and expense. (You do, however, need a dance partner.)
Dancing, whether slow, medium or fast, delivers so many health benefits that it’s a wonder more people aren’t doing it. Among them:
- Improved heart health. Any physical activity that raises the resting heart rate (normally around 80 beats per minute or bpm) between 40-85 percent above the maximum heart rate will force the heart muscle to pump more blood, expanding and flushing the arteries while creating more oxygen-processing capillaries. The maximum heart rate is the fastest rate at which your heart will beat in one minute – before you collapse or have a conniption.
- Increased balance, strength, and flexibility. A fitness expert would say that dancing works the body out on all planes of motion and from all directions: sagittal, lateral, and rotational. No muscle is overlooked when you strut your stuff.
- Easy on the knees and joints. Many dance forms are much more gentle than running on a treadmill or climbing stairs. Swing Time is great for patients with chronic medical conditions and those with limited mobility.
- Music amplifies the goodness. Scientific research is proving that dancing has a positive impact on both mind and body, particularly as people age. Daniel Tarsy, MD, an HMS professor of neurology and director of the Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), said that the tunes we listen to can pump us up and invigorate the dance-as-exercise experience:
“There’s no question, anecdotally at least, that music has a very stimulating effect on physical activity. And I think that applies to dance, as well.”
- Keeps you smarter longer and older. A 2003 study in the New England Journal of Medicine by researchers at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine discovered that dance lowered the risk of dementia in the participants.
Dance also reduces stress levels at the same time it increases levels of “the feel-good hormone serotonin, and helps develop new neural connections, especially in regions involved in executive function, long-term memory, and spatial recognition.”
- Includes rather than excludes. Since we know that anyone can dance – even people who can’t walk can probably move some part of their bodies in time to the music – everyone is invited to jump in. People are highly imitative, especially children (who love to dance, by the way).
- Meet others socially. There is nothing like the energy present in a group of happy dancers. Shy wallflowers can come out of their shells without the fear of ridicule or teasing. Make friends for life – or perhaps find your True Love on the dance floor.
- Raised spirits. Not the alcohol – that’s optional, in any case. Plain and simple, dancing makes you feel good. If it doesn’t you might be doing it wrong. (KIDDING! There is no wrong way to dancercise.) Take your mind off your troubles and get out of your head for a while. Leave your troubles behind as you bump, swim, and frug your way to a good night’s sleep.
Inspired? Great – now cue some favorite tunes and GET UP AND DANCE!