Many of us associate dancing with a night out, but the truth is, dancing can actually be an effective method of introducing some light resistance training and some (sometimes quite demanding) cardiovascular training into your exercise regime.
If you’re not one for the gym, but you want to remain active, then dancing is a perfectly viable method of improving your health through exercise. As with any exercise paired with an appropriate diet, dancing can also provide a good avenue to help facilitate weight loss and body re-composition.
If you’re simply looking to increase your daily caloric expenditure, then dancing can be a fun way to get moving more, especially with friends.
How does dancing benefit your health?
1. Get your blood pumping and your heart rate up
As with any cardiovascular exercise, one of the main physiological effect will be an elevation in your heart-beat and metabolic activity (meaning your muscles will produce heat and you’re likely to sweat more). When done effectively, this can result in adaptations to the cardiovascular system such as increased stroke volume, and thus increased efficiency. Ultimately, these adaptations can have huge benefits for your health, such as reduced risk of plaque building up in the arteries, and subsequently reduced risk of strokes and heart attacks.
2. Staying mobile
Again, exercise in general will bring similar effects, but dancing allows us to do so whilst having fun! Exercise such as dancing increases the metabolic activity in your muscles, thus generating more heat. This makes the soft tissue structures (mainly muscles) surrounding joints more pliable, allowing you to work on your range of movement. Additionally, dancing will facilitate an increase in synovial fluid production at the joints – a natural lubricant that helps your joints to move smoothly. This is particularly important as we age, as synovial fluid production tends to decrease – thus, regular exercise, like dancing, can help to encourage more to be produced.
3. Strengthening your muscles
Dancing is unlikely to prepare you to step on stage as a bodybuilder or powerlifter, but it can still help to combat the deleterious effects of sedentary life. Muscle wastage, or sarcopenia, is a prevalent issue in sedentary and aging populations. Loading your muscles with regular weight-bearing activities such as dancing can help to stave off these negative effects, ensuring you remain strong and stable throughout your life.
4. Psychological & mental health benefits
Dancing is fun. Having fun while exercising can have fantastic psychological benefits that can help to improve our mental health. Enjoyment, combined with physical activity (and maybe even socialization when dancing!), results in a multitude of physiological processes occurring in the brain. Mainly, there will be increased production of hormones and neurotransmitters that physically make you feel good, such as dopamine and serotonin. Additionally, being active can help you to maintain a healthy body composition, which can ultimately help to improve your self-esteem, which can have a huge influence on your mental health.
5. It keeps movement fun
As previously mentioned, dancing is fun, and you can always find a style that you will enjoy. This is important, as many of us don’t want to partake in exercise that we do not enjoy, regardless of the physiological and psychological benefits associated with it. Engaging in enjoyable activities can massively impact retention, meaning that it’s likely to be a habit that you will stick with.
The best dance workouts for cardio at home
Zumba uses Latin and hip-hop dance influences to create a dance workout that provides a fun, effective and often social experience that ultimately will facilitate physiological adaptations to your cardiovascular system. You can find Zumba videos that have guidance on youtube to use in the privacy of your own home. The combination of fast and slow movements works your body in an aerobic routine that is often quite challenging.
Hula Hoop Dancing
Often considered to be a children’s toy, the hula hoop can actually provide a very fun way to move your body. In particular, you can get a great workout that uses your glutes, quads, arms and core, thus getting a challenging full-body workout. This type of workout is so much fun that you barely feel like you’re working out.
For optimum calorie burning, you can try the many forms of salsa dancing, too. Salsa is fun and exciting and reaps as many great benefits as other forms of cardio dance. Salsa is a great type of cardio dance that requires a partner, so you can invite a friend to go dancing with you.
Take home message
Exercise doesn’t have to be done in the gym – it can be done in the comfort of your own home. What matters most is that you enjoy it, and thus you can subsequently create a healthy and sustainable habit to incorporate into your lifestyle. Ultimately, the goal is to promote mental and physical wellbeing, leading to longevity with a good quality of life.