An article by exercise physiologist, Jennifer Smallridge
Whether you like to hit the dancefloor, dance in a local lesson or simply move to music around the house, dancing is a wonderful way to get your hit of multiple health benefits.
What type of dancing should I do?
There are so many different ways to dance! A good guide is to listen in to the type of music that you naturally gravitate towards (eg: modern, hip hop, jazz, salsa, waltzes) and then find a beginner class which is likely to feature that style. There are also some excellent beginner dance lessons available online these days, so you can have a go in the privacy of your home!
Dancing can be done in a group, in a private lesson, or with a partner. Almost all public dance centres will have beginner or “come-and-try” sessions where you can feel safe in a supportive environment! And it’s true what they say - to dance like nobody’s watching. It’s likely that everyone else is just as conscious and trying to remember the steps too!
What are the benefits of dancing?
- Improves cardiovascular fitness: By moving continuously, and involving your arms and legs, you will get a fantastic cardio workout without even realising it!
- Improves balance and strength: Through toning up the leg muscles and developing the special sense known as proprioception (spatial awareness). This naturally results in feeling more steady on your feet.
- It can be dialled up or down: Instructors can provide modifications for beginners and progressions for more advanced dancers. The best part is, as long as you are moving to music, you are dancing! Regardless of what it looks like or how it feels.
- A natural brain booster: Very recent research has shown that regular dancing increases cognitive function and executive function (ability to make decisions, plan ahead, be rational). It also enhances your working memory and can be used as a great way to stave off dementia.
- It is social and fun: There is just something lovely about dancing in the presence of others, to the same music. Movement through dance is expressive and can even help with emotional regulation and mood.
What if I have an injury or pain?
Classes such as Aqua Aerobics can be a great way to feel the benefits of dance whilst being in the supportive environment of the water. You may also connect with a local dance therapist or accessible dance class to explore seated and modified alternatives to traditional dancing. Consult your health professional if you have any questions or concerns, or if you haven’t participated in structured physical activity before.
Happy dancing everybody!
Hewston, P., Kennedy, C.C., Borhan, S., Merom, D., Santaguida, P., Ioannidis, G., Marr, S., Santesso, N., Thabane, L., Bray, S. and Papaioannou, A., 2021. Effects of dance on cognitive function in older adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Age and Ageing, 50(4), pp.1084-1092.