There are many forms of dance, from ballroom to barn dancing and disco to Morris dancing. Dance has always been a part of human culture, rituals and celebrations. Today, most dancing is about recreation and self-expression, although it can also be done as a competitive activity. Dancing is an enjoyable way to be more physically active and stay fit.
Here are a few benefits that you can have from starting to dance, not only physical but also psychological.
Health benefits of dancing
- 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 wellbeing
- Greater self-confidence and self-esteem
- Better social skills.
Like other forms of cardio exercise, dancing also seems to have mood and mind benefits. A 2007 study found that hip hop dancing improved energy, buoyed mood and lowered stress in ways similar to aerobic exercise.
A more recent study, published earlier this year in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, linked dancing to improved “white matter” integrity in the brains of older adults. Your brain’s white matter can be thought of as its connective tissue. That tissue tends to break down gradually as we age, which leads to a loss of processing speed and the thinking and memory problems that arise later in life, says Agnieszka Burzynska, an assistant professor of neuroscience at Colorado State University and that study’s first author.
The psychological benefits are also impressive. For decades, some therapists have prescribed dancing as an effective therapy for those who suffer from social anxiety or fear of public speaking. The idea: if you can loosen up enough to boogie in front of strangers, you’re a lot less likely to feel self-conscious when hanging out or speaking in front of an audience. Research dating back to the 1980s supports the idea that dancing can curb anxiety.
Dancing also seems to encourage social bonding and what psychologists call “self-other merging.” Like chatting with a stranger and finding out you both attended the same school or grew up in the same neighborhood, moving and grooving in rhythm with others lights up brain pathways that blur the barriers your mind erects between yourself and a stranger, and so helps you feel a sense of connection and sameness, suggests a study from the University of Oxford.
Getting started with Ballroom Dancing
Dancing can be done both competitively and socially. It can be a great recreational and sporting choice, because anyone of any age can take part. It doesn’t matter whether it is cold or raining, as dancing is usually done indoors.
The gear you need for dancing will depend on the style of dancing you choose. For example, tap dancing will involve buying tap shoes, whereas ballet will need ballet slippers and ballet clothing. To get started, simply choose a style you enjoy, or would like to try, look in the Yellow Pages or online for dance schools in your local area and join a class.
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