Health Benefits of Ballroom Dancing

 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture considers ballroom dancing a "moderate" activity. It has some specific health benefits, too, that may not have occurred to you before.

 
Muscle Toning

Ballroom dancing helps tone and strengthen the muscles in your calves, thighs and buttocks. Specific ballroom dance moves work these muscles differently than more familiar exercises, such as walking, jogging or cycling, do. If you're performing a style that involves lifting or dipping your partner, you can also get a pretty good upper body workout. Ballroom dancing will also help strengthen the core muscles of the abdomen and back.

Conditioning

Any regular exercise performed continuously for 30 to 40 minutes three or four times a week will help condition your cardiovascular system, strengthening your heart and lowering your cholesterol and blood pressure. It will also increase your lung capacity and your general stamina.

Bones and Joints

Dancing is a weight-bearing exercise, so it helps maintain bone density and prevent osteoporosis. It can also help rehabilitate your knees after surgery, as it is lower impact than jogging or aerobics.

Brain Food

A 2003 study published in the "New England Journal of Medicine" suggests that social dancing has a special benefit for seniors: it reduces the chances of dementia. As it's an activity that one performs with a partner, it can also lessen loneliness and depression in the elderly.

Calories Burned

Thirty minutes of dancing burns between 200 and 400 calories -- the same amount burned by swimming or cycling.

Strength

You get to develop more strength as you increase the time you spend ballroom dancing with your partner. The manner in which ballroom dancing contributes to strength buildup is by forcing a dancer's muscles to resist against their own body weight. For example, ballroom dancing involves the use of quick turns, spinning and strutting.  All these force-intensive actions require strength from your leg muscles, so your leg muscles are built up more and more just by doing the regular dance moves.

Ballroom dancing may be the perfect activity for those who have been diagnosed with osteoporosis. Even those who already have experienced vertebral fractures can participate.

Osteoporosis is a condition in which bone density is so low that fractures can occur from even minor strains or falls. Low impact, weight bearing exercise can help increase bone density without risk of fracture. Like walking, ballroom dancing is a low-impact, weight bearing activity that is good for persons with osteoporosis. In addition, ballroom dancing improves posture, balance and coordination, all of which help prevent debilitating falls and spinal deformity.

 

Mental Health

Since ballroom dancing is a communal activity, it has positive effects on your mental health. Studies back up what is common knowledge: Being around other people builds up your social ties, and socializing contributes to a positive outlook as well as a higher sense of self-confidence. Joining a ballroom dance class is one such way to accomplish this.

In 2003, Dr. Joe Verghese ',MD, neurologist at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, conducted a study to determine the relationship between physical and mental activity and the onset of dementia.  The study was conducted on 469 men and women over a period of 5 years.  The researchers found that ballroom dancing was the most effective activity for lowering the risk of dementia.  The study found those who ballroom danced lowered their risk by 76%, making ballroom dancing better than just regular exercise.

Reasons that were offered as to why ballroom dancing was superior included the increased blood flow to the brain from the physical activity combined with the decrease in stress and depression relating to the social aspects of this type of dancing.  Dr. Verghese stated "the requirements of ballroom dancing, such as remembering the steps, moving in precise time to the music, and adapting to the movements of one's partner are mentally demanding exercises."  Considering that the Alzheimer's Foundation of America projects that 16 million Americans may be affected by dementia by the mid-century, ballroom dancing may become just what the doctor is ordering.

More studies done at the Brain Institute of UCLA have found that intellectual and physical activities actually develop new brain tissue.  The Brain Institute has found that the "important thing for new synaptic growth is to be actively involved in areas that are unfamiliar to you.  The ideal situation is to combine new muscle control problems with something that stimulates the brain."  It appears that ballroom dancing would fit definitely the bill.

Brain Teaser: Dance can challenge your mind as well as your muscles.

At least one observational study has shown sharper minds with ballroom dancing.

The study appeared in The New England Journal of Medicine two years ago. Joe Verghese, MD, and colleagues studied 469 people who were at least 75 years old.

At the study's start, they answered surveys about mental and physical activities, like doing crossword puzzles or dancing. Back then, none had dementia.

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