If you’re looking for fitness opportunities a little less daunting then high-intensity interval training (HIIT) but more dynamic than a brisk walk, you may be in the market to take up dancing. With such a wide variety of styles available to you and no set age limit, dancing offers people a unique way of exercising without even realising the workout they are getting!
Dancing for Young People
Many children take a stab at dancing when their parents enrol them in tap or ballet classes, and some even stick with it all the way through adolescence to make a career of it. Shows like Dancing with the Stars, So You Think You Can Dance, and World of Dance have also opened the dance world to multi-generational audiences, encouraging more and more people young and old to give it a try.
As youngsters, children can glean many social and health benefits from dancing including lessons in discipline, sportsmanship, teamwork, developing routines, memorisation, creativity, endurance, and self-expression. Common dance styles for young people include jazz, tap, modern contemporary, ballet, ballroom dancing, hip-hop, b-boying, lyrical, and world dance.
Dancing for Adults
While some dance styles aren’t as accessible for adults, i.e. pointe ballet, without intense training earlier in life, there are a host of styles which can be adapted to many ages and ability levels. In addition to tap, jazz, hip-hop, and popular ballroom dancing styles like the waltz, tango, and salsa, you can find adults from their 20s to 90s trying their hand at styles like:
Swing dancing – stemming from the 1930s and 40s jazz-esque dance styles which accompanied swing music, this type of partner dancing involves quick footwork, lifts, spins, jumps, and sequenced steps.
Contra dancing – this type of call and response dance is similar to square dancing; participants commune together, dancing down parallel lines with various partners to folk music.
Country/western dancing – a variety of dance styles fall into this category including square and line dancing, two-step, Scottish dancing, and even clogging. Often performed in large groups or with partners, these dancy styles find their roots in everything from British and Irish jigs to polka and other folk dances.
Belly dancing – with its base in Middle East tradition, belly dancing has found commercial popularity through pop stars like Shakira and boutique studio class offerings. A combination of torso and hip work, belly dancing is a more solo endeavour which emphasises quick yet fluid rhythmic movements.
Folk dancing – depending on your own ethnic heritage, the type of folk dancing you are drawn to may vary – Flamenco dancing from Spain, Bollywood dancing from India, Polka dancing from Czechoslovakia, Australian folk dancing, the list goes on!
Fitness dancing – integrate a sweat-breaking workout with the magnetic rhythms and beats you find with fitness dancing like Zumba; or hone your core, arm, and leg strength with pole dancing classes (no longer reserved for wayward clubs!). Barre classes additionally feature fitness workouts based on using a ballet barre.
Health Benefits of Dancing for Adults
As you age, the health benefits you reap from dancing may differ from those children experience. Both physical, mental, and emotional health can be bolstered by dance, no matter the style you choose!
Improves Balance and Coordination
The powerful thing about dance is the precise coordination and execution it requires – whether it’s two-stepping with a partner, or simply learning hip-hop moves on your own. Synchronising your hands, feet, and eyes to work together helps you stay balanced, agile, and fluid as you move through your dance steps in time to the music. And as you increase the speed and vary the steps, formations, and movements, you’ll challenge your body (and brain) more and more.
If you are a senior with mobility problems, you can absolutely still take part in dancing. Find dance classes and events near you that are adapted for mobility limitations, and utilise mobility aids like stylish but reliable canes to keep you mobile.
Strengthens Cognitive Functioning
A 2017 study published in the journal Frontiers in Neuroscience revealed wow-worthy findings regarding the effects of dancing on both balance and brain structure. A group of elderly adults was tracked through two 18-month fitness routines, one of which involved dancing. In addition to improved balance, dancing participants also experienced increased activity in the region of their brain (hippocampus) responsible for learning, problem-solving, and memory. Dancing could be an effective intervention in helping stave off cognitive decline associated with Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Fosters Social Interaction
One of the best parts of a dancing hobby is the frequent social interaction and friendship you’ll encounter. Talking, dancing, and sharing experiences with like-minded people who also enjoy this hobby could be your ticket to fighting anxiety and depression which can commonly accompany ageing. Dancing and social clubs oftentimes hold fundraisers and galas and take part in fetes or cultural shows as well, giving you a wider breadth of social activities you can enjoy.
Combats Lifestyle Diseases
If you haven’t heard, sitting has been called “the new smoking” for its surprisingly powerful links to lifestyle diseases (like diabetes, obesity, heart disease) and even early death. The key to reversing the effects of sitting has been shown in some studies to complete an hour of moderate to vigorous exercise for every 8 hours you spend sitting. Standing won’t cut it on its own – its movement that people must achieve to stave off the degradation to your heart (and waistline) that can come with prolonged sitting. Dancing is one of the best solutions you will find. In addition to being adaptable to many age groups and ability levels, dancing is:
- Low-impact and therefore easier on the joints (good for people with arthritis)
- A weight-bearing activity which can help strengthen bone density (and fight osteoporosis)
- An exercise in flexibility which can help stretch tight muscles and relieve painful tension
- A confidence and mood-booster that promotes physical fitness and self-esteem
- Just plain fun!
Want to get started with dancing but not sure where to start? Try looking online first – search for local classes for your age group and interests, check with your local senior centre or social club, or visit Dance Magazine online to check out their list of adult dance classes. If you’re concerned about looking silly when you go, don’t fret, you’re not alone. Adult dance classes are judgment-free and even better with a friend so invite one along!