Fancy Footwork: Health and Fitness Benefits of Dance


Dancing as a form of exercise has surged in popularity with the emergence of at home videos, Zumba and group training classes and diversified fun and instructional formats. In 2014, it was estimated that more than 40 million people perform some form of dance exercises at over 30,000 facilities nationwide.

Exercise put to music can take many different formats. Aerobics, Zumba, Jazzercise and dance workouts are all musical exercise programs. The reason for its popularity is simple; it’s fun, so the monotony of working out is reduced.

Aerobic and Zumba dancing, shifts the emphasis from developing muscle and size to increasing strength, flexibility, endurance, coordination, and improved working of the cardiopulmonary system. Dancing essentially increases the body’s ability to use oxygen. The heart beats stronger, and with fewer beats, the heart can deliver the same amount of oxygen through the blood. Therefore, the heart has more time to rest between beats. While performing various dance workouts, the heart rate increases and so does the body’s need for oxygen, so the heart pumps faster to achieve this. Thus, making the heart more efficient at pumping blood. Dancing as exercise also improve a person’s metabolism. Weight loss will occur from the exercise and a better metabolic rate will lower pulse and blood pressure while the lungs work to full capacity.

Dancing is a flexible exercise, it can be achieved by many other activities too. Some include brisk walking, running, jumping, kicking, and jogging. Dance exercise does not depend on the weather or team participants. It can be performed in a fitness center or at home as is evident with Zumba classes and home workout videos. The important element for cardiovascular fitness is consistency. Activity should last between 30 to 60 minutes and be done at least every other day. Many dance programs consist of 60 minutes of activity. There is a warm-up, 45 minutes of intense dance movement and then a cool down. Warm-up and cool down are necessary to dissipate the lactic acid that is forming in the muscles as a byproduct of the exercise, lactic acid causes muscle to fatigue.

Dance activities are divided into low and high-impact movements. In low-impact, one foot is always on the floor. Skipping, for example, can be done with low impact. Jumping, on the other hand, is a high-impact activity; both feet are off the ground. Obviously, high-impact activities have a much greater injury rate, because of the increased force on the joints, the need for greater shock absorption and the propensity for increased levels of fatigue.

Dance programs can also be geared to different age groups. For younger participants, the program should include more dance and less aerobics. The dance program should be fun and brief to accommodate children’s shorter attention spans. Children are more flexible and have increased energy levels. A warm-up and cool-down are still necessary. Activities could include muscle isolation training, across the floor and front and back movements, proper body alignment and coordination with repetition. There should be little jumping and no trauma. All the activities should lead to a performance.

Seniors can do a modified version of dance exercise. It should be less strenuous with less repetition of each movement. This type of program can be modified for the handicapped, postoperative patients and pregnant woman. Increased flexibility should be a benefit for all people in this category. Less force should be exerted on the joints and all activities should always be low-impact. The choreographed routines should have no jumping, hopping or skipping. The appeal of dancing as exercise is that it’s noncompetitive. The program’s pace can be adjusted and modified to fit each individuals needs.

After beginning a dance exercise program it will take several weeks to adapt to the training regiment and begin to realize some of the condition benefits. Allow at least 6 to 8 weeks to learn the program and start getting into shape, regular participation and consistency is essential. One day’s rest between workouts will provide the body with enough recovery time between workouts.

Correct body alignment and position are during dance exercise is also vital. Stand tall with knees and feet facing forward. After a landing, make sure heels touch the ground. Do not land with legs and knees straight; bend the knee to help absorb the force on the back. The knees should not extend too far out over the toes, or it will increase pressure on the patellae. Don’t overextend while flexing or extending during the workout. One muscle group should be worked at a time and avoid overuse of any single body part. Overuse occurs from repetitive stress to a mechanically inefficient musculature, cramps are a common result. They are caused by fatigue, poor diet or lack of fluids. Proper choreographed routines should vary the work done by various muscle groups. Lunge with bodyweight evenly distributed, correct body alignment is key. Use a pelvic tilt when performing a plié. If an injury occurs, give the body time to rebuild its strength.

Dancing as a workout will help develop increased stamina and strength. There will be an increase in calcium uptake of the bones and increased flexibility. Dancing make people feel better, look better and live in better health.