Thinking about how you’re going to get into the best shape of your life? You may have been planning to take up running, cycling, going to the gym, or another form of physical fitness. But did you know that ballroom dancing is the best way to get yourself into great physical and mental shape?

Ballroom dancing brings with it a surprising number of health benefits. While it’s always a good idea to cross-train with other forms of fitness and exercise, ballroom dance provides most of the benefits you get from all other forms of physical activity, along with others unique to dancing. Ballroom dancing can help enhance memory, alertness, awareness, focus, and concentration. You also reduce stress and increase confidence.

Here’s a look at a few of the most valuable fitness benefits of ballroom dance.

Physical Fitness

Obviously, the first thing most people think of is the physical side of dancing. It involves plenty of movement which keeps your legs moving and your heart pumping. A German study of championship-level dancers found that one minute of the Jive or Quickstep at the highest level of dancing was equivalent in physical exertion to that of 800-meter Olympic runners!

You don’t have to be an elite athlete to get huge fitness benefits from ballroom dance. Even if you just dance socially you can easily burn 300-400 calories per hour in the Ballroom or Smooth dances, or more if you include the Latin or Rhythm dances.

Even if you just dance socially you can easily burn 300-400 calories per hour or more

Dancing movements use primarily the muscles in the legs. These are the largest muscles in the body. But other muscles are used in ballroom dancing that don’t see the same use in other dance forms. Holding your frame is a key aspect of ballroom dancing that involves the core muscles. You need a strong core to have great dance posture and to hold your arms in position for extended periods of time without letting your frame collapse. Your balance will improve considerably. So will your ability to maintain stability through all kinds of movement.

By learning to rise and fall and perform other dance movements, you increase the strength of your feet, ankles and knees, and of weight-bearing bones. This helps to prevent or slow the bone loss related to osteoporosis. And this happens without the high impact requirements of other fitness exercises like running.

As you get more experienced as a dancer, you begin to involve the use of your back and rib cage as well to achieve more sophisticated technique. Plus, you learn to breathe while you dance, allowing your body to receive higher levels of oxygen and building increased lung capacity through your dancing. Breathing is a powerful aspect of any effective fitness program and it’s built right into ballroom dance technique.

Learn about training the muscles used in dance

Mental Fitness

All forms of physical activity release chemicals known as Endorphins. These are hormones that interact with the receptors in your brain to reduce your perception of pain. Endorphins also trigger a positive feeling in the body. That euphoric feeling, also known as a “runner’s high,” can be accompanied by a positive and energizing outlook on life. Endorphins are generated in all physical fitness programs. They reduce stress and decrease both blood pressure and bad HDL cholesterol.

There’s nothing like getting on the dance floor to help stress melt away. Often when I teach near the end of the day students come in filled with problems from work. Those work stresses and pressures lift right off their shoulders and the students feel positive and energetic minutes later.

Swedish researchers studying teenaged girls with stress, anxiety and depression saw a decrease in anxiety and stress levels among those who took up partner dancing. They also saw marked improvement in mental health and patients reported being happier than those who did not participate in dancing.

Numerous studies have found that ballroom dancing has significant mental benefits not found in other forms of physical activity. Because it involves constant use of short-term memory as dancers create new patterns of movement, ballroom dancing has been found to create more intricate neural pathways.

A variety of studies have associated ballroom dancing with reduced risk of memory diseases or cognitive impairments like Alzheimers and dementia. Researchers postulate that this is due to the constant use of intelligent short-term memory combined with physical activity and music. These aid the long-term efficiency of memory pathways. One study in particular found that ballroom dance had by far the greatest positive impact over all other forms of mental exercise.

Read more about how dancing improves the brain

Building Confidence

Fitness is not just about your muscle tone and a healthy mind. One of the reasons people work so hard to get and stay fit is because it builds self confidence which enables them to be more productive in work and life. With confidence comes self-assurance that you can achieve other goals and the ability to resolve problems more easily by dwelling on positive outcomes. Learning to ballroom dance creates a life-long skill that empowers you in every aspect of your life.

Simply knowing that you have this ability is valuable, even if you don’t feel the need to discover how good you are through competition or medal tests.

For men in particular, the skill of knowing how to dance provides a natural connection to the opposite sex that can’t be matched by simply going to the gym. With this skill in hand, every opportunity to dance can feel comfortable and empowering. Dance also improves your communication skills with women. While other men cringe at the thought of being asked to dance at a social event, those who know how to dance can boldly get up on the floor with anyone. And that sense of accomplishment increases with every additional lesson you take.

Learn about the Essential Man Skills project

Creative Self-Expression

We are all built with a certain creative instinct. For both men and women, ballroom dancing provides a natural outlet for creative expression. When you know how to dance, you can skillfully use music to express your own interpretation of the music. After only a few lessons you’ll begin to understand how you can move your feet and body in a sophisticated and visually appealing way. The rhythm you feel inside can be expressed in more ways than just tapping your feet!

Social Fitness

Ballroom dancing is a group activity and connects people beautifully in a world that is increasingly disconnected. Social Media is not the same as social interaction. Being in a room with others who share your interest provides a sense of connectedness that can’t by matched by going on Facebook or Instagram. Being physically in contact with others, holding onto another person, during physical activity is even better and beneficial to lowering stress and depression levels.
Studies have found that social media actually contributes to an increased sense of loneliness, leading to growing rates of depression. Partner dancing, on the other hand, creates a sense of belonging and community that reduces loneliness and brings people together.

Ballroom dance lessons offer you a great opportunity to expand your social circle. Lessons and social dancing builds connections. They let you engage with people in a low-pressure environment, where there are no expectations. It’s perfect for younger singles who want to step up their dating game, couples looking to reconnect, and for adults who want to build a new life skill. Since the people you meet all share your passion for dance, these interactions often transition into lasting friendships.

So, if you’ve decided that this is the year you want to get into the best shape of your life, put ballroom dance lessons into your fitness schedule.

Author George Pytlik

Before turning pro, George achieved impressive results as an amateur competitor, holding the Senior (30+) Latin championship in BC, Canada for 7 consecutive years with his wife Wendy. The couple twice achieved a top-3 Canadian ranking in Senior Latin as well as a 3rd place Canadian ranking in 30+ Ten Dance. Today, George and Wendy are professional teachers with a vision of growing a strong dance community in Delta near Vancouver, BC.

More posts by George Pytlik

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