Dancing Is the Star

The best exercise doesn't have to burn the most calories or build the most muscle. It's the activity that moves you to do it time and time again.

In that sense, dancing is the belle of the ball. Besides being fun, it offers a range of benefits—physical, mental, and social.

Renewed interest in dance makes this a great time to learn at health clubs, dance studios, and schools that offer a variety of classes. You'll find routines Arthur Murray wouldn't recognize.

The IDEA Health and Fitness Association says that dance-based classes are the fastest growing group exercise activity.

Full-body workout

Dance is a terrific exercise that uses the whole body, provides a cardiovascular workout, and improves flexibility, coordination, and strength. Given time, it can even help you lose weight.

The benefits of dance don't stop with the body. A 2003 New England Journal of Medicine study of 11 physical activities—including golf, tennis, swimming, bicycling, and walking—found dance was the only one that reduced the risk of dementia in seniors.

Experts say dance is not a simple physical activity, like walking on a treadmill,because it requires mental activity too. And, there's also a social element to dance.

Other research has found that dance helps people in their 70s and 80s improve agility, balance, and range of motion.

Perhaps the greatest advantage of dance is the enjoyment it provides. Dance experts say an activity to music really stimulates people allowing them to move and clap for each other and laugh while getting fit.

Dance classes aren't the most intense aerobic exercise. But people who like to dance are going to be more consistent in it, and in the long run are probably going to lose more weight.

Safe but fit

Because dance is, for the most part, a low-impact activity, soreness or overwork is less of an issue. Dance classes can be very safe if they are taught well. You can ask the instructor if the class is for all levels of fitness.

Dance-based classes in health clubs differ from classes at dance schools. In a health club, dance is focused on getting your heart rate up. In a dance school class, you learn how to dance, how to move your body in space, and how to be confident with those movements in a safe way.

Once you decide which approach fits your goals, think about the music you like. There are classes for every taste, from country and western line dancing to urban hip-hop. When you find a class that sounds right, try before you buy.

Almost every place you go will let you take a class for free. Then ask yourself: does it meet your expectations? Do you like the instructor? Is it a type of dance you enjoy and feel comfortable doing?

You may not even think of it as working out or exercise.

Dance is really bringing people back in the gym that never thought exercise was for them. It's social, it's fun, and nearly everyone can be successful at it.

Happy feats

Here are some qualities of forms of dance:


  • Works core muscles

  • Stresses flexibility and range of motion

  • Involves explosive movements

Ballroom, salsa and swing

  • Highly social

  • Teaches you to move with a partner

  • Involves memorizing patterns of steps

  • Aerobic intensity depends on tempo

Hip-hop, jazz and urban-street

  • Highly aerobic

  • Incorporates jumps that build strength

  • Needs flexibility and good range of motion


  • For people who love rhythm

  • Develops agility and coordination of feet

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