Fitness for the Mind and Body through Social Dance

A Review

For many people looking to get fit, the dance floor offers an

exciting alternative to the drudgery of the gym, and experts say

sticking to an exercise regime is easier when it’s not a chore.

Social dancing is helping change the way people see exercise

especially with pop culture hits like “Dancing with the Stars” and

So You Think You can Dance”.

”Depending on the step, social dancing can burn anywhere from

250 calories to 400 calories an hour — about the same as a brisk

half-hour walk on a treadmill, and the more demanding dances

like the salsa, samba and cha-cha can be comparable to an

intense session at the gym.” (Ken Richards – spokesman for USA Dance)

”Dancing works muscles in different parts of the body and

sharpens balance and coordination. Memorizing steps, kicks and

twirls also flexes the mind — a critical benefit for older people.

You don’t get that from walking in place on a treadmill.” (Dr.

Ferdinand Venditti, spokesman for the American Heart Association and chief of

medicine at Albany Medical College)

For consistent fitness, the duration and frequency of physical

activity is more important than the intensity.  With social dancing

time flies so people may dance for long periods that will

therefore increasing their fitness.

Miranda Hitti WebMD noted in Dancing Your Way to Better Health

New social dancers may feel muscles they didn’t know they

had. That often happens with a new activity. Social dancing

often means moving backward, especially for women.  If you

are dancing the foxtrot, you are taking long, sweeping steps

backwards. This centres on the abs and buttocks, which is

very different than walking forward on a treadmill or taking a

jog around the neighbourhood.

Core Experience

The legs and arms often do the flashy dance moves. But they

are sunk without a strong body core.  The “core” muscles – the

abs and back – which are also used in Pilates, are

strengthened through pose and control techniques in social


A study by Joe Verghese appeared in The New England Journal of

Medicine in 2005.

The Dancing Brain

How might social dancing help the brain? Dance, in many

ways, is a complex activity. It’s not just purely physical. Social

dancing increases blood flow to the brain, it decreases stress,

depression, and loneliness because of dancing’s social aspect,

and provides mental challenges such as memorizing steps,

creative development and working with your partner.

Researchers have also identified surprising benefits:

At the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in Bronx, NY:

researchers examined how exercise influences the risk of

dementia by tracking 469 people over the age of 75 for a

period of 5 years. They found that dancing was associated

with a lower risk of dementia, while swimming, bicycling,

participating in group exercises, playing team games such as

bowling, walking for exercise, climbing stairs or doing

housework did not offer the same benefit.

Other studies have shown some unexpected ways in which dance

benefits people of different ages:

* At the University of California Irvine, medical students who took

art and dance classes were better able to observe and empathize

with their patients.

* In Sweden, elite cross-country skiers who did pre-season dance

training experienced less back pain from skiing.

* In a Korean study, depressed teens experienced relief from

dance therapy, and had measurably higher levels of serotonin.

* In Connecticut, breast cancer survivors who took part in a 12-

week therapeutic dance program at a medical centre in Meriden

improved their quality of life.

* Researchers at the Mayo Clinic, based in Rochester, MN,

identified that side-to-side dance movements help to prevent

osteoporosis by strengthening weight-bearing bones.

Make sure you consult your physician before starting any dance



Dancing Your Way to Better Health Ballroom Dancing May Help Mind, Body, and Spirit By Miranda Hitti

WebMD Feature accessed 2007

Reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD

accessed 2007




Dance For Fitness

— Why the Ballroom Beats The Treadmill – accessed 2007

Ballroom dancing puts the swing in exercise

Steps like the cha-cha can burn as many calories as a gym workout – accessed 2007

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