Health & Fitness

Benefits of Dancing

Imagine the fun you have when you are dancing!

By Christopher Pilarchik

There's no doubt about it, Ballroom and Latin dancing is changing the way people feel about exercise, and themselves! For those skeptics who don't believe in the power of the mind in health and medicine, I've listed the physical proof first. Millions of people every year are enjoying the many benefits that these forms of dance provide. From physical, mental and social standpoints, our favorite recreation is one of the best overall forms of low impact/high aerobic workouts available. It's fun, it can be free, and best of all it's always done with someone else! Here are just a few of the many benefits Ballroom offers:

The Physical Benefits

CARDIOVASCULAR: Ballroom and Latin dancing (henceforth called B&L) can raise the heart rate anywhere from 80 to 120 (more for some of us) beats per minute. That is the equivalent of any strength training or aerobic program I have heard of. Sustained in 2 minute bursts over a 45 minute period will build not only your heart's strength, but it's endurance too (Like Viagra for the Heart ).

MUSCLE TONE: B&L dancing, when danced at an intermediate to advanced level of technique, uses the perfect blend of isometric and isotonic resistance (the two key ingredients to muscle building and toning). The blend and use of the muscles is perfect for building beautiful tone in the muscles without building a lot of muscle mass (a big concern for women).

JOINTS: According to the American Journal of Medicine, the best way to avoid arthritis, early arthritis and to remedy current joint discomfort is to continue to use the joints in a controlled manner. The beautiful rise and fall of Waltz demonstrates this beautifully. What could do this more perfectly and gracefully than Ballroom and Latin Dancing?

THE SPINAL COLUMN: Before B&L, I had a chronic back problem and looked like I had curvature of the spine. When I stand as I used to, compared to what my natural posture now looks like thanks to Ballroom, I look at least 3 inches taller. The frame or posture maintained places the spine in a natural and correct position, even more correct than when standing or sitting naturally! Plus that puts all your organs in alignment, which is now thought by many doctors and chiropractors to fight sickness, disease, fatigue and more. (Technically, I should list the organs as a another +).

RESPIRATORY: Many track greats know that a strong set of lungs gets plenty of oxygen, which makes the heart work easier, which in turn allows us to dance and have fun longer! That's why sprinters run a lot of "wind" bursts. Brief bursts to up the heart-rate quickly, then bringing it down and doing this repeatedly. This is similar to dancing at a party, club or ballroom.

FACIAL LINES: Most ballroom and Latin dancers are so busy smiling all the time that they won't get those nasty worry lines. (OK, that's reaching a little but that's my story and I'm sticking' to it).

Mental and Emotional Benefits

HUG THEORY: The dance position used in Ballroom and Latin Dancing is very similar to a hug. It is believed that this is part of the attraction of B&L dancing, you get the security of a hug without the need for intimacy. Hugs are truly therapeutic and the ballroom circle does a lot of hugging as well as their dance positions, that's a whole lotta hugging going on!

SELF-ESTEEM: The first time I took my wife in an underarm turn, she almost broke my hand she squeezed so tight, "someone might notice me" was her explanation. She went on to a nat'l championship, then became a teacher then a performer. Myself, my wife, and almost everyone I know who does B&L, has found a deeper self worth and holds a greater value in themselves.

CONFIDENCE: Many ballroom dancers have experienced the thrill (rush) of dancing in front of people. This is one of American's top 10 fears! Overcoming this fear increases confidence in dance, in one's self and in life. Since I started over 14 years ago, I approach every challenge in my life with a solid (but realistic) confidence. Most of the ballroom dancers I know are the same!

SOCIAL EASE: There is documentation out the wazoo supporting the theory that "comfort and ease in social situations" is one of the four primary needs in all individuals (almost every philosophy, psychology and self help book has the list). From weekly exposure (and a bit of trial and error), people become much more at ease in a social situation. They learn to engage in conversation, proper social etiquette (one of the biggest social "phobias".) to ask someone to dance (a big first step for many people). It even helps people deal with crowds. All in all the ultimate source for social edification and eventually comfort.

POSTURE, APPEARANCE & BALANCE: I've grouped these since they build upon each other. B&L gives better posture, which in turn gives one a much more attractive appearance. If your ego from looking so good doesn't throw you of, the improved posture improves balance as well. This in turn will help one to move more gracefully, which is explained in the next benefit.

GRACE & POISE: Through improved balance and self esteem, one tends to stand and move in a much more polished and pleasant manner. Clumsiness is overcome, which also increases confidence and social ease.

PSYCHOLOGICAL ESCAPE: No matter what you do in life, you've got to take a break sometime! Ballroom provides a temporary escape from the cares of the world and their pressures and for a few hours a week gives them freedom and enjoyment, invigorating them for their normal responsibilities.

EMOTIONAL LIFELINE: For many people, there is an emptiness, a loneliness, something missing in their life. Ballroom offers something wonderful to fill that void and offers so many great benefits to boot!