How often can you say that your form of art and expression is also your regular workout? This might not be true with most art forms, but it is with dance. Dance requires constant movement, flexibility, and gently stretching the boundaries of what your body can do, just like any other exercise routine. The difference is that while exercise is often seen as a necessary evil, something you have to drag yourself to do, dance is something fun and dancers often dance for the love of it. While you enjoy the creative, artistic side of dance, you may be surprised by how much it could be improving your health.
Improved Strength and Endurance
There aren’t opportunities to sit down and take a break in the middle of a dance routine. You have to stay on your feet and keep moving until the routine ends. While that might not seem so hard from watching, that 5 minute performance can seem much longer once you start. As you adjust to dancing, your muscles are strengthened and your endurance improves. You may not notice much of a change right away, but try going for a run and see how long it takes before you’re winded. You may surprise yourself.
It’s no surprise that dance gets the blood pumping and requires deep, even breaths, so it’s probably only logical that dance can make for a great cardio workout. However, it’s still nice to see when things are backed up by science, and studies have shown that dance lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease by half, especially as you get older. Not only that but most people with heart disease who take up dancing see improvement in their heart health. It’s best to keep your heart in prime health and avoid cardiovascular disease from the beginning, however, so the earlier you start dancing, the better.
Reduced Stress and Improved Mental Health
Have you ever felt overwhelmed by stress and thought, “I need some fresh air?” Maybe you’ve gone for a walk to clear your head? Dance offers the same kind of release from stress as fresh air and going for a walk. It keeps you pre-occupied so you can channel all that energy into your movement, and the constant movement keeps you breathing in and out, which helps to unclutter your mind. When you have a health way to work out your stress and anxiety, you have more energy to spend on other things. Dancers are less given to the lethargy of depression and more highly motivated.
Your dance team is also a huge boost to your mental health. Often, when you’re dealing with stress and anxiety, you feel as though you have to deal with it alone. When you’re surrounded by a supportive group of people, you know that you never have to go through anything alone.
Dance strengthens the cerebral cortex and hippocampus of the brain, causing them to rewire their neural pathways and improve memory. The New England Journal of Medicine performed a 21-year study on senior citizens to see how recreational activities like dancing would affect symptoms of aging, especially with respect to the mind. The study found that seniors who danced frequently had a greater cognitive reserve and were better able to ward off dementia. Even if you’re a long way off from dementia, but tend to forget where you left your keys or the names of your classmates, dance can still be a great way to improve your memory now and protect your mind later.
Poise is essential to dancers. You need to be in complete control of your body and many dances require perfect posture to pull off the moves. The more you dance, the more your muscle memory adjusts and it will be easier for you to have correct posture and poise in your movements throughout your daily life. Dance also helps you to be more flexible, which can protect you from tripping and falling in your day-to-day life. When you spend hours each week practicing graceful, balanced movement, it’s impossible for that not to carry over into every other aspect of your life.
Dance can be one of the healthiest art forms you ever enjoy, especially if you find a dance class that prioritizes health and safety. Let dance help you flourish, not only as a dancer but as a healthy, energetic person.