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Dancing is one of the UKs most popular activities. 4.8 million people attend dance classes or dance events every year, and numbers are growing. With Strictly back on TV, whether it’s Ballroom or Latin, Line Dancing or Modern Jive – many of us Brits have dancing fever! And this has to be good news for one very good reason – Dancing makes us happy!
Dancing is good for physical health
Dancing is a great aerobic workout. In one 2016 study, the group that took part in moderate-intensity dance classes were 46% less likely to develop heart disease over the next 10 years than those who didn’t dance. The comparison walking group reduced their risk of heart disease by 25%. The authors suggested dancing may have had the greatest risk benefit because the social side of dancing has such a positive effect on reducing stress.
When we dance, we strengthen our core muscles, as well as repeatedly testing our balance. A strong core and good balance are needed to reduce the risk of falls. Moreover, stretching and shaping for specific dance moves improves flexibility.
And dancing is good for weight loss. A strenuous dance lesson burns up to 500 calories an hour! Pounding on your feet stresses your long bones, helping to reduce bone loss and the risk of osteoporosis. The protective effects on bone are only seen with weight-bearing exercise such as dancing – not for example, from just pedalling on an exercise bike.
Dancing is good for mental health
After a dance class, you can’t help but feel happy. Dancing relieves stress, anxiety and depression. In a 2019 review and meta-analysis, dance improved depression scores in all the studies included. Those who attend dance classes report it has helped improve their self-confidence and self-esteem.
Some psychologists view dancing as a form of mindfulness which can bring you into the moment. It’s all too easy to dwell on the past or worry about the future when what really matters is right now. Concentrating on dance steps, balance and moving in time with the music leaves little room for doing anything other than living in the moment!
Menopausal women may be interested to know that dancing at this time of life has numerous health benefits. In a 2021 study in the journal of The Menopause Society, 36 menopausal women average age of 57, danced for 90 minutes three times a week for 16 weeks. At the end of the study, they had a significantly improved cholesterol profile, along with improved coordination, agility and aerobic capability. Their general functional fitness index also showed a significant increase. The women noted an improvement in their self-image and self-esteem.
Dancing combats loneliness
Whether you dance individually in a dance class or dance with a partner, joining in is a way of combatting loneliness. And loneliness is as bad for your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Being on the dance floor means being socially connected, making friends and having a laugh. Dancing leaves no room for loneliness!
Dancing keeps you young
In one 2003 study, dancing was the only activity shown to reduce the risk of dementia – out of a list of activities which included dancing, walking, cycling and swimming. It’s not clear why dancing was top of the list, as exercise of any sort improves brain neuroplasticity – the way the brain regenerates and makes new connections. But dancing has been shown to increase levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). The authors commented that joining in with leisure activities which included reading, playing board games and musical instruments, has also been shown to increase cognitive reserve.
Dancing also has neurological benefits for those with Parkinson’s Disease. A 2022 review and meta-analysis of 14 randomised controlled trials showed that when compared to other forms of exercise, dance therapy was superior in terms of improving motor function, and significantly improved balance, functional coordination and cognition. It has also been shown to improve muscle strength and tone and improve walking gait. Tango may have specific benefits for Parkinson’s sufferers.
Dancing is fun!
When you start dancing you just can’t stop! There’s no doubt about it – dancing is fun. You lose yourself in the rhythm and the music and needing to concentrate on moving your body in time. All this distracts you from your worries and de-stresses you from your everyday problems. In addition, dancing leads to the release of brain endorphins – substances in the brain which give you a natural high.
Anyone can dance at an age. You are never too old to start dancing. There are local dance schools all over the country. For older adults, the U3A often run Ballroom and Latin classes, for example. It’s easy to go online and fins a local class.
Myths about dancing
Ask a non-dancer why they don’t dance, and they often say the following – But these are myths –
- I’ve got two left feet – Not true – Everyone can learn rhythm and timing with practice.
- I haven’t got any sense of rhythm – Not true – Think of counting and clapping as you count. Anyone can learn about rhythm.
- I’m too old – Not true – You can learn to dance at any age. We dance with a chap who is 93!
- I haven’t got a partner – Many dance schools can find you a partner. If not, look at Dance partner.com, or why not dance with a friend? Even if the friend is the same sex this doesn’t matter.
Dance as a hobby
Dancing is a fabulous hobby. Why not pick up the phone to your nearest dance school and join a class? You won’t be sitting at home on a Saturday night any longer! No more cocoa and slippers – just swishy dresses or tuxedos and sparkly shoes!
Once you get the dance bug, you’ll want to go to dance events, dance shows, dance weekends and dance holidays – a whole new world awaits you!
Dance your way to happiness – Slow, Slow, Quick, Quick, Slow! Once you have taken those first few steps, you will never look back. There are so many ways dancing makes you happy.
- What are you waiting for? It’s strictly time to get moving!
by Dr Deborah Lee, Dr Fox Online Pharmacy