Most of us are nowhere near active enough on a regular basis and fail to do half the exercise that we really should be doing in order to be optimally healthy. The human body is simply not designed to be still for long periods of time unless we're sleeping, and yet we spend a huge proportion of our time either sitting at a desk at work or collapsed onto the couch at home. It's no wonder that obesity is rife and so many of us have complaints of back pain!
Unfortunately, it's not easy for us to change the amount of time we spend sitting down at work without a drastic career switch. That means that the best way we can become more active and start reaping the many benefits that come with that, is for us to engage in more activities outside of work when we get home.
And for many reasons, dance is one of the very best options. Not only is dance a lot of fun, as well as being a great skill that will come in handy whenever you're at a party of gathering, but it's also incredibly good for your health for a whole range of reasons. Read on and we'll look at some of the most impressive health benefits of dance.
If you're looking for a way to lose weight that's fun and that you're likely to actually stick to, then dance is a fantastic option.
Losing weight is often a very demoralising and miserable process. It involves cutting all the things you love out of your diet, going on long, tiring runs, and generally being strict with yourself in a number of ways. Many people find that they don't lose weight very fast when following these sorts of training regimes and diet plans, which is often down to the fact that they aren't able to push themselves hard enough, consistently enough. These people invariably end up 'falling off the wagon' and giving up their efforts, only to eventually come up with a new regime and complete the cycle again. Meanwhile the alternative outcome often involves them trying to work too hard, too soon and then injuring themselves as a result. You can't go from zero exercise to intense exertion and expect that to go well…
Dance on the other hand though is something that's fun, that's social and that you'll actually enjoy doing. You'll go to dance classes for the sake of dancing itself, and thus you'll have introduced regular exercise into your weekly schedule. This will result in weight loss on its own as you burn calories in every class, but it will also increase your energy and help you to build up some resistance against injury. You'll become generally fitter, and then if you choose to do additional exercise on top of your dance classes you'll find that it is much more successful and that you lose weight at a much faster and steadier rate.
This is why so many people will struggle for months with weight loss programs, only to then start a dance class and quickly begin to develop a more toned and athletic physique.
Dancing requires fast paced, continuous exertion which is what makes it a form of cardiovascular exercise. At the same time though it also involves a number of difficult postures and even jumps which provides the muscles with resistance. This is what you need in order to develop extra strength and muscle tone, and thus dancing will help to flatten stomachs, remove 'bingo wings' and create more toned legs and buttocks. If you've ever seen professional dancers you will have seen how well toned and proportioned their bodies are – you will start to change the same way once you add dance to your own schedule.
Another benefit of this toning is that it actually accelerates weight loss. One of the biggest mistakes that many people (especially women) tend to make when trying to lose weight is not focussing at all on building muscle. When you build or tone muscle your body then has to burn calories simply to maintain that level of muscle. In short, you increase your 'resting metabolic rate' meaning that you burn more calories throughout the day – even when you're asleep! Because dancing involves more muscles and more toning, it is actually more effective at increasing your metabolism than even running.
Few people realise just how damaging their posture can be for their health. Hours of working at a computer has left many of us with hunched and rounded shoulders and a weakened lower spine. Not only does this damage the spine and lead to back ache, but it also increases stress, prevents you from breathing properly and even negatively impacts on confidence (our body language can often inform our mental state).
To be good at dancing though you need to think about your posture, to roll your shoulders back and to lift your chin and chest up. Constantly remembering to do this can ultimately impact on your natural posture throughout the day leading to a more balanced and healthy musculature as well as eliminating back pain and even improving breathing.
Dance teaches flexibility which is required for many of the high kicks and other more flamboyant moves. Most dance classes will also incorporate lengthy warm-up sessions which tend to also consist of a lot of stretching.
By increasing your flexibility you will not only increase your athletic performance, but also avoid a range of injuries. For those interested in building muscle at the gym, increased flexibility can lead to improved range of motion through the exercises and thus fuller-looking muscles.
Another way that dance can reduce injuries is by improving balance. Many dance moves involve balancing on one foot, going onto tip toes, or otherwise holding positions that require a lot of balance. By practicing these moves you will build up strength in your smaller supporting muscles, as well as throughout your core and as such you'll get better at maintaining your balance at all times.
Your kinaesthetic awareness is your 'body awareness' and is basically what allows you to estimate where your body is in space at any given time. This is related to balance, but also to spatial awareness and agility. As dancing requires you to stay conscious of your whole body while pulling off difficult, technique moves, it will help greatly in this regard too.
Finally, dancing is a fantastic way to improve your mood, the health benefits of which should not be underrated. Dancing, like any exercise, will help to produce natural antidepressants like endorphins but is also just a lot of fun. Because dance is something you do with a partner, it's also an ideal way to feel closer to someone and to strengthen a relationship – which is only further helped by the fact you'll both be developing more toned and athletic bodies!