Laughing middle-aged African American couple enjoy staying fit by dancing together in their kitchen.


How to dance your way to better health

  • Belly dancing gives you a moderate workout -- about the same benefits as walking briskly or doing water aerobics. Most types of belly dancing burn between 270- 320 calories an hour.
  • People with cardiac conditions who danced for 20 minutes three times a week saw their heart health improve significantly more than people who did more traditional cardio workouts.
  • A typical 30-minute dance class can burn between 130 and 250 calories, about the same as jogging.

I am a big advocate of my patients staying fit and healthy.  While not everyone likes going to the gym, I fully believe that you should find alternatives to the gym that keep you active and engaged and, hopefully, that you find fun.  Whatever it is, I highly recommend that you find something active that you like to do and will actually follow through on.

One activity I recommend to many patients is dance. Dance can be enjoyed by people of all ages, all sizes and all abilities. I have danced with people as young as nine and as old as 75.  And, you can modify the movements based on your needs. The calories you burn while dancing varies depending on the type of dance you do. For example, my choice of belly dancing averages between 270-320 calories burned per hour. Plus, there’s a good chance that if you have fun you’ll want to do it again.  A bonus: Dance is portable. You can do it anywhere.

Dancing also is a great way to lose weight. As you age, dance can help you maintain strong bones and improve your balance and coordination, which can lead to a reduced risk of falls. As with most forms of exercise, dance will also help you reduce stress and boost your mood.

There’s a dance style to fit your lifestyle and exercise needs. Different types of dance work different parts of your body. For example, for me belly dancing works my core and emphasizes body positive aspects of dance. Ballet is a good lower body workout, while tap is great cardio exercise. Hip hop gives your core and butt a workout, while ballroom dancing helps build your stamina and endurance. And, if you want a great upper body to full body workout there’s pole dancing!

For me with belly dancing, I have danced with men and women. I have danced with people who have used belly dance to heal from hip surgery and another who used it to help manage a mood disorder. I know others who have used dance to recover and heal after cancer treatments, and people with rheumatoid arthritis use it to help improve mobility and to complement more traditional medical treatment and therapy.

Dance classes and programs are available at all price points through local community centers as part of your fitness center membership or through more traditional ballroom dance lessons. If dancing in public isn’t your thing, you can still exercise at home to an online video or DVD. The point is, move and have fun while you’re moving!

The bottom line? Don’t just see exercise as something you should do. See it as something you love to do, and it will become part of your life and something you look forward to doing.

If you think there is a reason for you to not try a style of dance, I challenge you to give it a whirl anyway. Who’s up to taking the challenge: Try a dance style outside your comfort zone. I did, and it was magical.



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