Dance Yourself Healthy

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It’s 2011 and I want to have some fun! And, I want to look good and feel even better for it. How do I plan on accomplishing all three? It’s easy: I’m going to get in touch with my inner Debbie Allen and dance, dance, dance.

Dancing, like walking or cycling, is a great no-cost or low-cost way to build aerobic fitness, improve balance and strengthen your muscles at any age. And you don’t have to wait for a special event or find a partner to enjoy dance’s benefits. If you’re a mom, your little one(s) is the best dance partner imaginable! Trust me, there’s nothing more fun than rocking your best Snoopy dance or robot moves while dancing wildly to upbeat and fun music by kid faves Kimmy Schwimmy or Laurie Berkner.

You can even pick dance as your main physical activity. Research has shown that dancing gives even formerly inactive people a good workout. Beginners in a tango class logged about 20 percent of their recommended daily steps by participating in the twice-a-week program.

The fun factor of dancing helps encourage you to stick with the activity. Many people find dancing more enjoyable than spending time in a gym on traditional exercise equipment. Dance classes provide social connections that help improve mood and build feelings of well-being. If you’re concerned that you may not be fit enough to tap your toes in public or that your two left feet may be your downfall, don’t be. There are dance groups for all activity levels—and more dance styles than you ever knew existed. From A (Argentine Tango) to Z (Zumba), there’s a dance out there for you.

Groups specializing in line dancing are especially good if you don’t have a regular dance partner, but many classes are set up to make sure that everyone dances, regardless of whether you come alone or not.  

To get started with dancing for fitness:

•    Borrow dance DVDs from your local library and try them at home.

•    Participate in a community dance class through your local adult school or recreation center.

•    Alternate dance sessions with walks or jogs you may already be taking.

•    Wear comfortable shoes and loose clothing.

•    Bring water and a face towel for comfort.

And get ready to smile. Dancing increases social contact, improves self-esteem and encourages new friendships and deepens the connection with old ones.

With Strictly Come Dancing back on TV, there’s never been a better time to put on your dancing shoes. Dancing is one of the most fun and effective ways to lose weight and get healthy so we’ve asked the experts how you can get the benefits even if you have two left feet.

Why is dancing so great for me?

“Dancing is a great way to get fit and work your whole body,” says Ian Parker from Fitsteps, a nationwide dance exercise class inspired by Strictly. “It can help to improve your balance, flexibility and posture. It gets your heart pumping and could help you burn up to 600 calories.”

Remembering the steps and coordinating your arms and legs can be quite tricky too so gives your brain a great workout. Music is also thought to boost memory, improving the blood flow to your brain.

“Dancing is also a huge de-stresser when you’ve had a difficult day,” says Maureen Hill of nationwide dance fitness craze, ChaSamba. “It releases lots of happy hormones, so you leave class feeling great about getting fit while learning something new and having a brilliant time.”

Which dance style is right for me?

With so many styles of dancing there’s something for everyone from an explosive Samba to an elegant Waltz. Or you could choose a dance fitness class such as ChaSamba or FitSteps, which bring together all the dances you see on Strictly dance floor, from Jive and Salsa to Cha Cha and Quickstep.

“Mixing all the dances together gives you an energising, whole-body work-out, with each of the different dances benefitting different areas of your health,” says Ian. “Latin dances such as the Tango, Rumba and Cha Cha will really improve your flexibility and mobility with all the hip action as well as working your heart and lungs.

“The Ballroom dances, such as the Waltz and American Smooth will really improve your core strength which helps to improve your balance. Other styles help to strengthen your arms and could even help you banish your bingo wings”.

What if I’m not a ‘dancer’?

Both FitSteps and ChaSamba classes are geared up to work at your pace, so they’re great for beginners and more experienced dancers. “If you have joint problems or back pain we can tailor the routine to you to make it lower impact,” says Maureen. “Or if you want to push yourself we can make it more of a challenge.” And you don’t need a partner because the classes are designed so everyone can dance by themselves. If you like music and want to get moving, there’s a very good chance you’ll love to dance.

Dancing isn’t just about the steps and music. It’s a perfect combination of physical activity, social interaction, and mental stimulation. Dancing enhances your life in so many ways: Health, Confidence, Self-Expression, Social, Relaxation, and Fun.

Health:

 When you dance, your cardiovascular system improves, your muscle tone increases and you burn calories. This low-impact aerobic activity also increases flexibility, strength, and balance. Olympic athletes often dance as part of their training to sharpen their control, agility, and speed. Dancing is great exercise, especially in a fun atmosphere in which to learn.

Confidence:

Dancers possess an aura of self-confidence and an ability to enjoy themselves more in social situations. When you learn how to dance, your entire mental outlook will take on a fresh sense of creativity, motivation, and energy. This new self-confidence in your dancing abilities will transfer to other aspects of your life as well.

Self-Expression:

 Dance provides an emotional outlet so that you can express your feelings through your body movements with passion and flair. Dancing will bring out, improve upon, and strengthen your ability to permanently use these expressive qualities even when you are not dancing.

Social: 

Dancing lessons are an easy, low-pressure way to meet people. Look for a dance studio that provides weekly practice dance parties, nights out on the town, and regional and national competitions, as well as fun trips to many different locations. Dance lessons are the perfect way for couples to rediscover romance by dancing your way to love!

Relaxation:

 In today’s fast-paced world, we sometimes forget to take a moment for ourselves. Dancing provides an enjoyable escape from your normal daily routine, plus a chance to relax, relieve stress, and concentrate on yourself.

Fun:

Dancing is a great way to add excitement to your life. Although learning to dance takes concentration and dedication, you will be constantly surrounded by artistic, cheerful people who make learning a pleasurable and rewarding experience. So start dancing and have some fun!

Types of Dance

Our instinct tells us to express rhythm. Just as children bob their heads to music and senior citizens tap their canes to the beat, dancing comes naturally to both young and old alike. Some form of social dancing has probably existed since the beginning of time, moving from ritualistic dancing to social interaction for pure enjoyment.

  • Rhythm
  • Salsa
  • Mambo
  • Hustle
  • East Coast Swing
  • West Coast Swing
  • Merengue
  • Rumba
  • Cha-Cha
  • Samba
  • Bolero
  • Paso Doble
  • Jive
  • Smooth
  • Argentine Tango
  • Foxtrot
  • Tango
  • Waltz
  • Viennese Waltz
  • Quickstep

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