Staying fit is very important and exercising every day for at least half an hour is necessary for good health. You could try to follow a strict routine of yoga or take up a gym membership and try everything from weight training to high-intensity interval training (HIIT). However, for many people, motivation to go to the gym regularly peters out as soon as the initial enthusiasm to get fit does. This may be also because gym memberships can be expensive to keep up and repetitive workout routines can become boring.

These problems rarely emerge when you try a dance workout. Dancing is one of the most natural forms of aerobic exercise, which not only keeps you healthy but also entertained and engaged. All you need to do is to switch on your favourite music, slip into your jogging shoes and start dancing. You need not even be a trained dancer to be able to groove your way into fitness and better health, as dancing has come naturally to humans since prehistoric times. That’s why you won’t find a single culture in world history which hasn’t had its own dance rituals. 

There are various physical as well as mental health benefits of dancing, which makes this form of workout very effective even today. Studies show that from promoting weight loss and toning your muscles to improving your cognitive abilities, dancing can help you maintain all aspects of your health. However, there are a few things you must keep in mind while taking up a dance workout since, like every other exercise form, improper form and method can cause injuries. Here’s everything you need to know about dance workouts, including their types, benefits, risks and tips on how to start out.

(Read more: Fitness)

  1. Types of dance workouts
  2. Is dancing better than other workouts?
  3. Benefits of dancing
  4. Dancing benefits for toddlers
  5. Risks of dancing
  6. Tips to start dance workout

From Bharatnatyam and Kathak to Tango and Salsa, there are many types of dances that people take up as an art form and as a workout too. Almost all dance forms improve balance, engage your core muscles and include medium- to high-intensity exercises that burn fat. There are a few dance forms, however, that are better workouts because they are more dynamic and involve more high-intensity movements.

  • Zumba: Zumba is an exercise fitness program created by Colombian dancer, Alberto Perez. Upbeat music and dynamic body movements of varying ranges ensure that everybody can take up Zumba, no matter what their age.
  • Belly dancing: While it looks exotic and slow, belly dancing actually involves hip circles, shoulder shimmies and feet or leg movements that increase your range of motion and balance. Belly dancing is also recommended for those at risk of or with arthritis to ensure their range of motion improves.
  • Hip-Hop: Hip-hop is a street-based dance style which involves high-intensity, high-impact steps with rapid weight shifts and jumps. This style of dance workout is, however, not suited to people with arthritis or osteoporosis. 
  • Bharatnatyam: This classical Indian dance form not only involves squats and lower abdominal and limbs to be balanced and moved but also engages the shoulders, neck, arms and even the eyes. Bharatnatyam also involves narratives and a wide range of expressions, which can help boost your cognitive function and memory.
  • Kathak: When you wear weighted bells on your feet and perform a wide range of movements - as dancers do in Kathak - it not only helps burn calories but also improves your balance. Kathak includes narrative storytelling through dance, which may be great for your mental fitness.
  • Odissi: Odissi is another classical dance form that engages, tones and strengthens almost every muscle in the body - even the facial ones. Odissi may also help you improve your flexibility. 

(Read more: 10 common misconceptions about working out)

The amount of fat you burn or weight you lose by engaging in a dance workout depends on the form of dancing you select. More vigorous, dynamic and intense dance forms are likely to help you lose more weight. MedlinePlus reveals even ballroom dancing, which isn’t as vigorous as some other forms, can help you burn up to 260 calories in an hour. Salsa, Zumba and other aerobic dancing forms can burn as many calories as swimming laps or running does.

In a study published in Plos One in 2018, an extensive assessment was performed on older participants on how dance and other fitness activities separately affected general cognition, attention, memory, postural and cardio-respiratory performance and neurotrophic factors. The researchers behind this study found that compared to conventional fitness activities, dancing led to larger stimulation of the brain and helped improve spatial memory and attention levels too. 

(Read more: How to increase brain power)

So, while dance workouts may lead to the same physical improvements like muscle toning, strengthened bones, endurance boost and weight loss as other fitness activities, the mental and cognitive benefits of dance surpass those provided by the other activities. In this sense, dance workouts are better than other workouts.

A dance workout, no matter which style of dancing you take up, can provide a number of health benefits. These benefits are physical as well as neuropsychological in nature and are therefore holistic. Engaging in even one form of dance workout can provide you with the following benefits:

Dancing is a full-body workout

Dancing not only focuses on a single body part but the entire body. Dance workouts target the core, arms, legs, glutes and back of your body. Dancing also helps in improving the muscle tone, strength, endurance and fitness of the body.

Dance workouts keep you motivated

Working out in a gym can get boring for some people after a while and performing the same set of exercises every day gets monotonous even for gym lovers. However, dancing can be fun every day as you get to practice different forms of dancing. There are many styles of dance to choose from, each with its own benefits. For instance, ballet focuses on technique and flexibility whereas Jazz focuses on strength and endurance.

Dancing improves cognitive ability

Studies reveal that dancing helps in improving the cognitive function of the body which involves thinking, remembering, decision making and concentration. Some studies show that dancing helps in improving those areas of the brain which control memory and skills.

Dance workouts help in burning calories

Studies have shown that a 30-minute dance workout session can help you burn around 120 to 250 calories, which is equivalent to what you’d burn after a 30-minute jog. A 30-minute session of Zumba or Jazz can improve your mood and also burn your extra calories.

Dancing improves cardiovascular health

A study published in the journal Circulation: Heart Failure stated that cardiac patients who practised dance for just 20 minutes a day, three times a week, experienced a significant improvement in heart health compared to those who followed traditional cardio workouts. Doctors believe that dancing is a fun alternative to regular cardio exercises. 

(Read more: Best cardio exercise for heart health)

Dancing for better bone health

Scientists have found that dancing can help in making your skeletal structure strong and also help build bone mass. Unlike some other harsh exercises, dance is a weight-bearing exercise that helps in strengthening the bones.

Dancing improves mental health

Dancing is one of the best ways to express yourself. Dancing helps you let loose and escape from the stress of everyday life. Dance also releases feel-good hormones like the endorphins in the body, making you feel stress-free and relaxed. Dancing regularly can therefore improve your mental health status by reducing stress and anxiety levels.

You may imagine that children need to be taught how to dance or move to the rhythm of music but you would be wrong. Children first start to understand music and move according to it when they are mere foetuses in their mothers’ wombs. It comes naturally to them and as they are born and continue to grow up, dancing can help them in many different ways. So, going to dance classes or dance workouts with your child from a young age can have many positive effects. The following are some ways through which dancing can benefit your toddler:

  • Dancing is a fun way of improving your child’s spatial awareness and movement coordination.
  • Dancing can improve your child’s body strength and balance.
  • Dancing can help your child develop a healthy heart and lung capacity from an early age onwards. 
  • Dancing along to songs according to a rhythm requires both sides of the brain to be stimulated, so dancing can improve a child’s cognitive abilities, especially memory, understanding and concentration. 
  • Dancing is a social activity. Dancing along with other children in a class or even with the rest of the family at home can improve your child’s socialisation skills.
  • Since dancing is a great workout, it can help your child stay fit and avoid issues like childhood obesity.

(Read more: Newborn, infant and child health care)

Like all exercises and forms of physical activity, dancing too involves certain risk factors that can lead to adverse health outcomes. They include the following:

  • Foot, leg and ankle injury
  • Hip injuries
  • Knee injuries and patellofemoral pain syndrome
  • Stress fractures
  • Fall injuries
  • Back pain
  • Overexertion and fatigue

These risks can be minimised to a large extent if you select a dance workout form best suited to your health needs and practice under the guidance of a trained teacher or instructor. If you have an underlying health condition like rheumatoid arthritis, arthritis, hypertension and heart disease, then it is also best if you consult your doctor before taking up any dance workout.

(Read more: Workout injuries)

A dance workout is not something you can jump right into. There are a few steps you must take to ensure that you minimise the risks involved and get the maximum benefit you can from it.

  • Check with your doctor: Before you take up any type of exercise you should consult your doctor. Get a full-body check-up done and then proceed with the next few steps.
  • Select a type: Do some research about the types of dance classes available to you online or physically. Select the one that interests you the most or is most suited to your health status and goals.
  • Get a teacher: The right instructor can guide you properly to ensure you benefit from dancing and don’t have any injury risks in the short- or long-term.
  • Pace yourself: Don’t go full-throttle from the very beginning. Instead, start slow and pace yourself so that you can avoid injuries.

References

  1. Arthritis Foundation [Internet]. Atlanta. Georgia. Dance-Based Fitness Classes.
  2. MedilinePlus [Internet] US National Library of Medicine. Bethesda. Maryland. Dance your way to fitness.
  3. Johns Hopkins Medicine [Internet]. The Johns Hopkins University, The Johns Hopkins Hospital, and Johns Hopkins Health System; Common Dance Injuries and Prevention Tips
  4. Barranco-Ruiz, Yaira. et al. Dance Fitness Classes Improve the Health-Related Quality of Life in Sedentary Women. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020 Jun; 17(11): 3771. PMID: 32466496
  5. Bremer, Zoe. Dance as a form of exercise. Br J Gen Pract. 2007 Feb 1; 57(535): 166. PMID: 17263946
  6. Rehfeld, Kathrin. et al. Dance training is superior to repetitive physical exercise in inducing brain plasticity in the elderly. PLoS One. 2018; 13(7): e0196636. PMID: 29995884
  7. Watson, Todd. et al. DANCE, BALANCE AND CORE MUSCLE PERFORMANCE MEASURES ARE IMPROVED FOLLOWING A 9-WEEK CORE STABILIZATION TRAINING PROGRAM AMONG COMPETITIVE COLLEGIATE Dancers. Int J Sports Phys Ther. 2017 Feb; 12(1): 25–41. PMID: 28217414
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