By American Council on Exercise / By Jessica Matthews
National Dance Day on July 30th is a great reminder of how much fun fitness can be. And while dancing might be so enjoyable you almost forget you’re exercising, there are a wealth of physiological and psychological benefits that come from shaking your hips and stomping your feet. We’ll take a look at a few different styles of dance made popular by TV shows like So You Think You Can Dance, Dancing with the Stars and America’s Best Dance Crew and explore the fitness benefits of each.
- Dancing can serve as a great form of aerobic exercise, providing cardiovascular conditioning, which can help lower your risk of coronary heart disease, decrease blood pressure, and also aid in weight management efforts according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI).
- Dancing is a weight-bearing activity, which can improve bone density and thereby reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
- Dancing can also improve muscle strength, coordination and balance.
- Given the fact that dancing serves as an enjoyable and engaging form of physical activity, many individuals find that dancing helps to reduce stress and chronic fatigue, improve energy and mood and increase self-esteem and confidence.
- Research has also shown that dancing can play an important role in successful aging, as well as help to improve memory.
Sorting Through the Styles
Before beginning a dance class (especially one which includes high impact movements), it is important to focus on improving balance and flexibility, two factors which will enable you to accelerate, decelerate, and stabilize your body quickly and efficiently while dancing. Starting with a beginner-level class and progressing in time to a more advanced class will help to minimize the risk of injury and also provide you with a more enjoyable and successful experience. With a variety of dance styles and classes to choose from, it is important to select a form of dance that is in line with your goals, personal preferences and current fitness level. Below are just a few examples of some popular styles of dance:
Ballroom Dance: From ballroom dance to cultural dance the benefits of dancing are undeniable and beginners can step their way to a more toned physique, working muscles in their legs, arms, back and core that they didn’t even know they had. And when it comes to caloric burn, the numbers speak for themselves. For rhythmic dances, such as the foxtrot or waltz, a 160-pound person will burn an estimated 130 calories in 30 minutes. For more intense styles of dance such as the salsa, the number of calories burned doubles to approximately 250 calories in 30 minutes, which is comparable to performing a light jog for the same duration.
Ballet/Contemporary: Ballet exercises are built on the foundation of good posture and proper body alignment, which is developed initially through a series of fundamental barre exercises. These exercises, which are repeated each class, help to build strength, increase balance and improve posture, all of which are important for not only developing a strong core and sculpted muscles, but also for enhancing activities of daily living. Ballet also helps to enhance overall flexibility, a critical element of a well-rounded fitness routine that is often neglected.
Hip Hop: Whether the moves are straight from the streets or more like a choreographed cheerleading routine, many individuals love to stay in tune with the music and dance moves of today while burning some serious calories in the process. Individuals of all ages can engage in hip-hop dance to improve coordination, enhance memory and develop greater self-confidence. Given the fact that many hip hop routines are fast-paced in nature this form of dance can also serve as a great cardiovascular workout, improving the condition of the heart and the lungs.
To find out how many calories you can burn with the above styles of dance or one of your other favorite forms of exercise, check out ACE’s activity calculator.
Jessica Matthews is certification director and an exercise scientist for the American Council on Exercise® (ACE®), the nation’s trusted authority on fitness. Matthews, who is also an ACE-certified Personal Trainer and a registered yoga instructor, specializes in basic wellness, women’s fitness and mind-body exercise.