Dancing can be a way to stay fit for people of all ages, shapes and sizes. It has a wide range of physical and mental benefits including:

    • improved condition of your heart and lungs

    • increased muscular strength, endurance and motor fitness

    • increased aerobic fitness

    • improved muscle tone and strength

    • weight management

    • stronger bones and reduced risk of osteoporosis

    • better coordination, agility and flexibility

    • improved balance and spatial awareness

    • increased physical confidence

    • improved mental functioning

    • improved general and psychological well being

    • greater self-confidence and self-esteem

    • better social skills

The health benefits from dancing are tremendous! You don’t realize it as you dance, because you are having so much fun. People often associate fitness with extreme physical regimens that are not usually considered as fun for many of us. Dancing on the other hand is going to train your body, while allowing you too keep your smile on! Dancing will give you stamina, mobility, flexibility, strength, improvement of heart and lungs, stronger bones and even improving your mental health by providing you with confidence.

Mental escape

We’ve all been in need of a “mental break” from time to time. Dancing can offer the escape your brain needs. “It’s a good counter-activity to being stuck on a screen and being home.

Not unlike a “runner’s high,” rhythmic movement has been shown to trigger the release of endorphins, which can boost your mood.

As much of a mental exercise as a physical one, dancing keeps the mind sharp. Dancing as we age helps improve cognitive flexibility, known to decline even in high-functioning older adults.

Improving memory

Dance can challenge your mind as well as your muscles.

Doctors have been trying for decades to find innovative ways to slow the cognitive decline seen in older adults. Aga Burzynska, assistant professor of human development at Colorado State University, wondered whether keeping them active would slow memory loss. “As we get older, in general, our cognitive functions start declining,” she said. So Burzynska focused her research on the issue and looked into ways to combat the deterioration. The resulting study was published this year in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience. Researchers looked at adults ranging from their 60s to their 80s who had no signs of memory loss or impairment. Participants were assigned to one of three activities: brisk walking, stretching and balance training, or dance classes. Three times a week, those in the dance group practiced and learned country dance choreography. The goal, Burzynska said, was to see “how increasing aerobic exercise, increasing aerobic activities or introducing activities such as dance can help protect our brains from aging.At the end of the study, brain scans were done on all participants and compared with scans taken before the activities began. The dancers fared better and had less deterioration in their brains than the other groups. Burzynska says this makes sense, because unlike aerobic exercise or stretching workouts, “there was definitely a lot of memory involved and a lot of learning.

Dancing Makes You Smarter / Brain Teaser

Dancing integrates several brain functions at once, increasing your connectivity. Dancing simultaneously involves kinesthetic, rational, musical and emotional processes.

The key is the decision-making. Social dancing freestyle lead and follow. But freestyle social dancing isnt that simple! It requires a lot of split-second decision-making, in both the lead and follow roles.

But when it comes to preserving mental acuity, then some forms are significantly better than others. When we talk of intelligence (use it or lose it) then the more decision-making we can bring into our dancing, the better.

Who benefits more, women or men?

In social dancing, the follow role automatically gains a benefit, by making hundreds of split-second decisions as to what to do next. Women dont follow, they interpret the signals their partners are giving them, and this requires intelligence and decision-making, which is active, not passive. This benefit is greatly enhanced by dancing with different partners, not always with the same fellow. With different dance partners, you have to adjust much more and be aware of more variables. This is great for staying smarter longer.

Men, you can also match her degree of decision-making if you choose to do so. (1) Really notice your partner and what works best for her. Notice what is comfortable for her, where she is already going, which moves are successful with her and what arent, and constantly adapt your dancing to these observations. Thats rapid-fire split-second decision making. (2) Dont lead the same old patterns the same way each time. Challenge yourself to try new things. Make more decisions more often. Intelligence: use it or lose it. And men, the huge side-benefit is that your partners will have much more fun dancing with you when you are attentive to their dancing and constantly adjusting for their comfort and continuity of motion.


Dance can challenge your mind as well as your muscles!

A 21-year study, led by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, funded by the National Institute on aging was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Joe Verghese, MD, and colleagues studied 469 senior citizens 75 and older. Their method for objectively measuring mental acuity in aging was to monitor rates of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease.
The study wanted to see if any physical or cognitive recreational activities influenced mental acuity. At the study’s start, the participants answered surveys about mental and physical activities, like doing crossword puzzles or dancing. Back then, none had dementia.

Five years later, 124 had dementia. Frequent dancers had a reduced risk of dementia compared with those who rarely or never danced.

Of 11 physical activities considered, only dancing was tied to a lower dementia risk, Verghese tells WebMD.

Most dancers did ballroom dancing, says Verghese. He’s an assistant neurology professor at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York.

What was discovered was that some activities had a significant beneficial effect. Other activities had none.
The cognitive activities that the study included were: reading books, writing for pleasure, doing crossword puzzles, playing cards and playing musical instruments. The physical activities studied: playing tennis or golf, swimming, bicycling, dancing, walking for exercise and doing housework.
One of the surprises of the study was that almost none of the physical activities appeared to offer any protection against dementia. There can be cardiovascular benefits of course, but the focus of this study was the mind.
There was one important exception: the only physical activity to offer protection against dementia was frequent dancing.

Reading – 35% reduced risk of dementia
Bicycling and swimming – 0%
Doing crossword puzzles at least four days a week – 47%
Playing golf – 0%
Dancing frequently – 76%. That was the greatest risk reduction of any activity studied, cognitive or physical.

What could cause these significant cognitive benefits?
In this study, neurologist Dr. Robert Katzman proposed these persons are more resistant to the effects of dementia as a result of having greater cognitive reserve and increased complexity of neuronal synapses. Like education, participation in mentally engaging activities lowers the risk of dementia by improving these neural qualities.
As Harvard Medical School psychiatrist Dr. Joseph Coyle explains in an accompanying commentary: “The cerebral cortex and hippocampus, which are critical to these activities, are remarkably plastic, and they rewire themselves based upon their use.”
Our brain constantly rewires its neural pathways, as needed. If it doesn’t need to, then it won’t.

How might ballroom dancing help the brain? Verghese outlines three possibilities:

Increased blood flow to the brain from the physical exercise

Less stress, depression, and loneliness from dancing’s social aspect

Mental challenges (memorizing steps, working with your partner)

“Dance, in many ways, is a complex activity. It’s not just purely physical,” says Verghese.

Carl Cotman, PhD. directs the Institute for Brain Aging and Dementia at the University of California, Irvine. If dance is aerobic enough, it could aid the brain, says Cotman. The social and mental aspects could also help. “You’ve got togetherness, and … training the brain to do a new motor skill,” says Cotman.

Balance and coordination

Each year, more than one out of four adults 65 and older suffers a fall. The aging population is at high risk for falls, and we think dance, especially, can be beneficial in reducing the risk of falls, because dance is just a series of balance tests.Techniques taught in dance classes increase body awareness.

Compared with dancers, “athletes generally have more knee injuries, specifically ACL injuries, and we think that the specific jump training that dancers do could be prevention for knee injuries such as a ACL tear.”

Dancing has no age limit

No matter if you like doing the “The Hokey Pokey” at a party, the “running man” challenge in a social media video or performing on stage with a ballet company, everyone, no matter the level, has something to gain from dancing. The inclusive art is accessible to all with countless benefits being had.

Unlike with many forms of exercise, there are no rules when it comes to dancing. Participants range from toddlers to retirees; anyone can join in and enjoy the experience.

Movement is good for everyone.

A healthy lifestyle is integrating the mind, body and soul relationship, and dance has all of those characteristics.

Dancing forces you to feel your muscles, bones and joints, “and getting in touch with your body in that way is the first step to any kind of physical fitness.”

“Everyone can do something, even if it’s just you just tapping your foot,” she said. “Everyone can do something where they can move their body to music, and that’s really valuable.”

Calorie Check

How many calories will you burn? That depends on your body and how vigorously you dance. Dance is a “moderate activity,” say the USDA’s physical activity guidelines. Adults should get at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity daily, according to the guidelines, released earlier this year. It can be easier to stick to that with fun activities, says Cram.

Muscles Worked

New ballroom dancers may feel muscles they didn’t know they had. That often happens with a new activity, says Ken Richards, spokesman for USA Dance, the national governing body of DanceSport the competitive version of ballroom dancing. Ballroom dancing often means moving backward, especially for women, says Richards, a professional ballroom dancing veteran.

“If you’re dancing the foxtrot, you’re taking long, sweeping steps backwards. That’s very different than walking forward on a treadmill or taking a jog around the neighborhood,” he says. Ballroom dancing works the backs of the thighs and buttock muscles differently from many other types of exercise, says Richards.

New skills can bring confidence. At parties and social events, dancers may head to the dance floor feeling good about themselves without a martini’s encouragement.

SOURCES: Catherine Cram, MS, exercise physiologist, Comprehensive Fitness Consulting. USDA, “MyPyramid.gov: What Is Physical Activity?” CDC: “Physical Activity: Recommendations.” Ken Richards, spokesman, USA Dance. Janice Byer, group exercise director, The Courthouse Athletic Club. Joe Verghese, MD, assistant neurology professor, Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Carl Cotman, PhD, director, Institute for Brain Aging and Dementia; professor of neurology and psychobiology, University of California, Irvine. Jane Wilson Cathcart, LMSW, ADTR, CMA, dance therapist; New England Journal of Medicine