With shows like Dancing With the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance in full swing, dancing is becoming one of America’s favorite pastimes. There is even National Dance Day, which was started in 2010 to “encourage Americans to embrace dance as a fun and positive way to maintain health and fight obesity.”
Dancing provides physical, psychological, and social benefits galore, so put on your dancing shoes and follow along.
Better balance, improved mood
Many studies have found that dancing can improve balance, even in frail elderly people. Some have shown improvements in gait, walking speed, and reaction time, as well as cognitive and fine motor performance. Dance studies have included jazz, ballroom, tango, folk, and a series of slow, low-impact dance movements—though any kind of dancing would likely be beneficial.
Dancing may also be good for your mood. It has been shown to reduce depression, anxiety, and stress and boost self-esteem, body image, coping ability, and overall sense of well-being, with the benefits lasting over time. In one study, it even helped control “emotional eating” in obese women who eat as a response to stress.
Dancing for heart health and weight control
If dancing gets your heart rate up, it can be a good form of aerobic exercise, which is good for your heart in general. One study even found that in people with stable chronic heart failure, slow-fast (interval) waltzing improved heart and blood vessel function and overall quality of life as much as a moderate aerobic exercise program did.
Bottom line: There’s no downside to incorporating dance into your regular physical activity routine, and it could help motivate you to get moving if you find other types of workouts, like treadmill walking or cycling, a little boring. People with medical conditions such as heart disease, Parkinson’s, arthritis, and vision impairment may benefit—after they get their doctor’s okay in some cases.
Don’t overlook the social benefits: Dancing is a great way to spend quality time with a partner or meet new people if you don’t have a partner.