to music appeals to our most primal instincts: dance has been a part
of culture for as long as man has walked the planet. It stimulates the
senses - sight, sound and touch - it's great fun and it's good for our
bodies and minds. See below for how dancing improves your health. Dancing
is a great way to build physical activity into our lives.
for every body
To help stay healthy, the Government recommends that everyone take part
in 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity five times a week.
That's activity that gets you breathing faster, increases your heart
rate and warms you up. You don't have to be pouring with sweat and panting
- you should be able to keep it up for half an hour. And the good news
is that dancing counts.
Most dance styles,
even a stately waltz, are the activity equivalent of at least a moderate
(3mph) walk. Anyone who Highland flings or ballroom dances themselves
around a room will up their heart rate, warm up and breathe quickly.
Regular dancing will reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, high
blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and cancer. And you'll enjoy yourself
so much you'll forget you're exercising!
Regular dancing will also help keep you trim. Avoiding weight gain can
become harder as we get older, because ageing is associated with a loss
in muscle mass and an increase in body fat. But as you shimmy across
the floor, you'll be burning calories: in a half-hour dance session,
an average 60kg person will burn at least 99 calories. Of course this
varies - you'll burn more with a lively Latino-style than beginner's
belly dancing because you're moving more.
for your bones and joints
Dancing helps to reduce the risk of osteoporosis because the steps put
a strain on your bones, helping them to stay strong and dense. The more
dense your bones are, the longer your bones will remain strong and less
likely to fracture if you should fall.
Also the dips,
turns and side-to-side movements in dance routines make good use of
your muscles and joints, helping to delay the progression of osteoarthritis.
Keeps you moving
Other skills you'll develop as you learn to glide elegantly across the
dancefloor - poise and grace - encourage coordination, balance and muscle
strength. These are particularly important in later life as it helps
to reduce the risk of falling allowing people to maintain their mobility
and independent living.
for your mind
A regular quickstep or tango will help to keep your mind active as well
as your body. Exercise improves circulation and helps prevent oxygen
starvation to the brain, and remembering complex steps stimulates the
working memory. In fact, research suggests that ballroom dancing reduces
the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease or dementia.
Not only can
exercise slow mental decline, but it may actually enhance brain power.
And there's some evidence that listening to music while you exercise
stimulates mental functioning more than silent activities. So regular
dancing might even help you impress your chess mates or solve those
trickier crossword clues.
There's another good reason why dance benefits the brain - social life.
Of course there is nothing to stop you turning up the volume and jiving
round your living room whenever the fancy takes you, but dancing tends
to be a shared pursuit. Spending time with good friends can stimulate
the mind and protect against mental decline. Being part of a group,
team or community is one of the keys to a happy life, bringing emotional
support and a sense of purpose. To get the most out of social dancing,
go for regular group classes aimed at your level of ability, where you'll
meet up with the same like-minded dancers each week.
Many dance forms are wonderfully relaxing. You can let your mind wander
as you trip the light fantastic. Depending on the style you choose,
a dance class can be a pleasant trip down memory lane, or a stimulating
voyage into new musical realms.
exercising can lift your mood and reduce the risk of depression - don't
overlook the feelgood factor of a foxtrot. And let's not forget the
sense of achievement you'll feel as you master the most complex of moves
- finding something you enjoy, and that you can see and feel your improvement
at with practice, can give your confidence an enormous boost.