Don’t want to pay to use a gym or work out alone? According to a 2007 study, people could find an alternative in social dancing.1 Social dancing shows up throughout popular culture, from the waltzing scene in “The Hunger Games” movie, to Baby and Johnny’s epic dance and lift in “Dirty Dancing,” to the elves’ dance in “The Polar Express.” Don’t want to participate because you have two left feet? Consider this: Social dancing has shown improvements in motor control for individuals with Parkinson’s disease,2 increased motivation to participate in physical activity3 and even improvements in aerobic fitness for wheelchair users.4
There are many types of dances to try: Latin dances like the cha-cha, salsa and samba; smooth dances like the waltz, quickstep and tango; and social dances like square dancing, bachata and Carolina shag. Try different dances to see what you like best and add variety to your routine. There are many avenues in which you can pursue social dancing. Some local dance schools offer a sample course or consistent classes for specific dances. Local restaurants and other hangouts sometimes host dance nights. There may even be social dancing right down the road from where you live. Some college campuses, like the University of Georgia, have many social dancing opportunities for students and community members alike.
You can reap the benefits of balance, coordination and even social benefits from new friendships and cooperation skills through social dancing. A recent study in Hungary showed that women, in particular, gain greater physical activity benefits thanks to the unique technique required to follow dance.5
If you decide to pursue social dancing, don’t worry about going solo. Dance classes are typically open to anyone who wants to come and they do not require you to have a partner. Remember to wear clothes you can move in. It might be tempting to wear those jeans that feel just right, but you are going to want the freedom to bend and twist. Also, keep an open mind. You might learn life lessons through dancing, so stick with it. And last but not least, hydrate. Dancing is physical activity! Bring a water bottle and drink up. Keep drinking water as you dance the night away.
If the idea of a night on the town seems like it would put you too far out of your comfort zone, grab a funky pair of socks and dance in your own living room. You don’t have to go anywhere special to cut a rug. There are plenty of dance resources available, like YouTube tutorials or dance exercise DVDs. Dancing gets your heart pumping without feeling like exercise. Try it out solo or invite friends over for a dance party. You’ll have a great time and get the physical activity needed to improve your overall health.
— Jenissa Gordon is a graduate student Dietetic Intern with the Department of Foods and Nutrition at the University of Georgia.
- Bremer Z. Dance as a form of exercise. Br J Gen Pract. 2007; 57(353):166.
- Hackneyy ME, Earhart GM. Effects of dance on movement control in Parkinson’s disease: A comparison of Argentine Tango and American Ballroom. J Rehabil Med. 2010
- Lee RE, Mama SK, Medina A, Edwards RO, McNeill L. SALSA: Saving Lives Staying Active to promote physical activity and healthy eating. J Obes. 2001.
- Terada K, Satonaka A, Terado Y, Suzuki N. Training effects of wheelchair dance on aerobic fitness in bedridden individuals with severe athetospastic cerebral palsy related to GMFCS level V. Eur J Phys Rehabil Med. 2017.
- Vaczi M, Tekus E, Atlasz T, Cselko A, Pinter G, Balatincz D, Kaj M, Wilhelm M. Ballroom dancing is more intensive for the female partners due to their unique hold technique. Physiol Int. 2016; 103(3): 392-401.