By Erica Moe | Get Fit
We celebrate many of life’s more important occasions with dance — the first dance at a wedding, the end zone dance after a touchdown, and a child’s happy dance expressing pure joy. At the best times in our lives, we dance. It has such a positive connotation, it can even make exercise more enjoyable and entertaining, not to mention effective.
Consider this: Zumba, a Latin-inspired dance workout, burns more calories than cardio kickboxing, step aerobics, hooping and power yoga, according to a study funded by the American Council on Exercise (ACE) conducted at the University of Wisconsin. Additionally, the Zumba participants perceived the workout to be less intense than it was because it was so much fun. Dance workouts feel like a party!
This party can come in many packages. From ballet to bachata, Bollywood to belly dance — and everything in between — you can find a class for that. Find a type of dance you enjoy and have fun getting fit while you’re moving and grooving. Learning dance can improve your cognitive health, as well. It enhances neuromuscular activity and helps improve the mind/body connection through learning specified movement patterns.
Dance is for all ages. The New England Journal of Medicine published a study showing that dancing was the only physical activity associated with a lower risk of dementia. Young or old, dance makes a difference. Another study by the American Council on Exercise proved that a simple video game, like “Dance Dance Revolution,” can burn between 5.9 (light mode)–9.4 (difficult mode) kcal/min, which is equivalent to cycling 12–14 mph. “Dance Dance Revolution” is registered as an official sport in Norway!
You can dance anywhere! Literally, you can take an Aqua Zumba class in the pool or join a synchronized swim team at the YMCA. Dance workouts can be individual, with a partner or in a large group. Dance provides something for everyone. Research proves that no matter your fitness level, beginner to advanced, dance can deliver a highly effective workout.
Physiologically, dance strengthens the heart and lungs. The USDA recommends 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per week. It rates dance as a moderate activity.
Moving in different directions while cutting a rug can increase core strength and stability while allowing you to burn additional calories in the same way you would in an interval workout. It is also a weight-bearing activity, which helps reduce the risk for osteoporosis. Flexibility, muscular strength, balance and coordination are also improved by dancing. Psychological benefits include increases in self-esteem and confidence, improved mood and reduced stress.
Trademarked exercise dance classes like UJAM, Zumba and Pound are finding their way to group exercise studios near you. In addition, there are many youth (and adult) dance classes like ballet, tap, jazz, line dancing and ballroom, to name a few. Check out schedules at ymca.org.
— Erica Moe, MS is an ACSM-certified exercise physiologist who writes on behalf of the Mission Valley YMCA where she is fitness director.