Fitness

Dance Your Way To Fitness

Dance offers a dynamic exercise that strengthens the mind and body
BY Donna Martelli TIMEMarch 12, 2022 PRINT

Dancing is so much fun it’s easy to forget that it’s doing amazing things for your mind, body, and spirit. It just might be your best exercise. It offers dynamic movement, the uplift of music, and a chance for social connection. Changing your fitness routine to surprise your body and mind is crucial, and dancing is the perfect way to accomplish this.

I was formerly a professional dancer with the Harkness Ballet of New York and director of Fitness Arts at LivRite Fitness in Indianapolis. Dance is a great way to get into shape, which is why many fitness centers feature dance classes.

Tap Dancing

Nadine Egan has danced all her life and is an excellent instructor in several dance techniques. I took two eight-week sessions of Nadine’s tap classes at LivRite and found that besides all of the benefits that she mentions below, tap dancing was excellent for my brain. My mind and body worked hard to figure out how to make the moves I asked of them. After class, I felt both physically and mentally stretched, not to mention relaxed and happy!

Egan said that the benefits of tap dancing include increased cardiovascular conditioning, strength, flexibility, coordination (a big deal for me!), and flexibility in the hips, knees, and ankles.

Tap dancing develops a great sense of rhythm and timing. It burns approximately 315 calories per hour and improves balance and posture.

It’s imperative to have good balance as you move from one foot to another. To effectively perform the moves, you must keep your weight over your feet, using deep postural muscles.

Egan starts with taps, shuffles, flaps, and heels at the barre. Don’t worry if you don’t know what those are; a good instructor will patiently teach you. Once you learn those things, your teacher will put them together in fun but challenging combinations.

Zumba

Zumba is a dance specifically designed around fitness. Brandy Samson, an instructor at LivRite and other fitness clubs, is a beautiful, energetic person to learn it from

“I am extremely passionate about Zumba and take great pride in what I do to offer an authentic class to each of my participants,” she said.

The goal of Zumba is to offer our participants a dance party atmosphere with easy-to-learn choreography. Instructors are trained to keep choreography simple so that participants of every fitness level can join in.

A student should be able to walk into any Zumba class, in any country, at any location, expecting the same experience: to have a fun and exhilarating experience and leave feeling successful, free, and energized.

Samson is particular about the music she uses in class. She says: “Personally, my playlist is of utmost importance because it has the potential to show personality, my beliefs/values, and has a ripple effect on how I would like to influence my students to feel. Music speaks to our soul and is the heartbeat of our class.”

Music also has an emotional impact that adds an additional dimension to dance fitness programs. Sampson noted this quality.

“Music can be compelling in moving our emotions,” she said. “It can bring out joy, sorrow, sassiness, passion, and an entourage of other feelings. Furthermore, it can cause us to face hidden vulnerabilities that we weren’t aware of or afraid of facing alone. With the right instructor, Zumba Fitness has the amazing ability to be a physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual experience.”

I was dripping with sweat in her class, knowing that I had worked every muscle in my body.

Ballroom Dancing

Ballroom dancing is romantic and beautiful. Certainly, it builds coordination and strength, but it’s challenging because it teaches you and your partner to move together.

Ballroom dancing can help you lower blood pressure and blood sugar; boost your metabolism with a low-impact aerobic activity (you can burn between 200 and 400 calories in 30 minutes); lose between 1/2 and one pound a week; increase your muscle strength and endurance; and increase your flexibility and joint health.

Research finds that dance is as effective for weight loss as cycling and jogging. It can also be a great way to recover from illness or improve your quality of life. One study published in 2020 found that partnered recreational ballroom dance could improve quality of life and cognitive function for persons with multiple sclerosis.

Dance for Well-being

Dance is a fantastic way to get healthy and stay well. Studies have found that dance supports brain health and can spur growth in the hippocampal region.

Other studies have found that dance can help enhance memory, alertness, awareness, focus, and concentration; prevent the onset of dementia and significantly improve spatial memory in elderly patients; help create more intricate neural pathways, warding off weakening synapses that often come with old age; and build confidence as you become more proficient.

Socially, it can also expand your sense of social “connectedness,” which lowers stress and depression levels. And emotionally, dance provides an outlet to express your feelings through body movements with passion and flair.

Formerly a professional dancer with the Harkness Ballet of New York, and faculty member at Butler University, Indianapolis, IN, Donna was Director of Fitness Arts at LivRite Fitness. There, she taught Ballet, Barre, Pilates, Stretch and Conditioning, Personal Training and provided fitness consultations to members. She created Raise the Barre at LivRite, trained, qualified, and managed its instructors, and wrote its training manual. She is the author of “When God Says Drop It” and “Why the Dance,” available wherever books are sold.
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