Let’s be serious: Dancing makes us feel amazing. There’s something so primal, so human, about moving your body to music. The toughest thing, perhaps, is getting over feeling self-conscious about you how you look doing it. Watch any little-uninhibited kid dance and you’ll see pure joy (and some pretty sweet moves, depending on the kid).
Apart from the joy—and satisfying that urge to shimmy—dance offers so many benefits to your mind, your body and your mood.
Who knew? Dancing is good for you. No matter the type, there are countless reasons to get your groove on.
What is dance?
If we’re being technical, dance is moving rhythmically to music, typically following a set sequence of steps. But dance is so much more than that.
And to be clear, we’re talking dance of all kinds here, from tap dancing to Zumba to cardio dance fitness to ballet. African dance. Irish step dancing. Tango. Hip-hop.
Yes, dance can be a set sequence of steps—think a foxtrot or salsa—or it can be free-form and unpredictable, like modern dance or whatever it is that happens at an impromptu dance party in your kitchen. Any time your body is moving to music, you’re dancing.
Dance typically requires coordination, usually of your torso and limbs doing different things at the same time, and an ear for the beat, but the great thing about this discipline is that because there are so many styles, it offers a little something for everyone.
Who is dance great for?
Dance is a brilliant workout for anyone at any age. It can be scaled in intensity to your level or physical needs, and its benefits are applicable to every body. The body is designed to move—and we are designed to derive joy from it!—making it a good option for anyone with the desire to do it and the willingness to have a little fun.
It’s a terrific tool for losing weight, building stamina and endurance, and increasing flexibility (see more below), which are valuable at every age and for every body.
Physical benefits of dance
Dance works your entire body, including your cardiovascular system and every musculoskeletal connection. To move fluidly requires integration of all of these things, and the more you practice, the easier they become. For this reason, dance is tremendously effective at building body and spatial awareness. Being familiar with where your body is in space is a powerful way to become stronger, understand muscle engagement and to fall down less, generally.
Coincidentally, dance also encourages us to learn to balance better, strengthening all of the little muscles throughout the body that keep us upright. This includes better posture and improved motor fitness, which can alleviate back pain, headaches and neck tension and keep us standing more upright as we age.
If you’ve ever participated in a Broadway-themed jazz dance class or tried your hand (feet?) at Latin-inspired salsa and cumbia, you know that dance is an incredible aerobic cardio workout. You’re constantly moving, changing direction and trying to keep up with the pace of the music, which means your heart and lungs have to try to keep up with you! Moderate to high-intensity cardio—enough to at least raise your heart rate to the place where speaking is difficult—will build cardiovascular endurance over time. This translates to any other sport or activity, including walking up and down stairs or running for the train.
Dance also requires and builds muscular strength and flexibility. You can expect to feel more aligned and more connected to your muscles, and more toned all around. You need to engage your core to move fluidly. This builds strength and stability in your abs, back and glutes, which are essential to powering most movements safely.
You may also notice that dancing regularly could lead to a loss of excess weight. More muscle and more strength equal a higher metabolism, and all of that moderate-intensity cardio is great for burning off anything extra your body may be hanging onto.
Mental benefits of dance
Dance requires integration of your brain’s motor cortex, your auditory system and your muscles to move together in time to the music. Regularly rehearsing this collaborative effort strengthens neural connectivity, meaning your brain creates more pathways to transmit signals and becomes more comfortable doing this with less effort the more you practice.
This has been shown to improve mental functioning and might make you smarter. (What?!)
Dance, and allowing the body to move to music, is also soothing and can relieve stress. Dance has been shown to reduce depression and anxiety and even curb emotional eating. Using dance as a way to work out tension and release negative energy can improve your overall sense of well-being (because again, let’s be real, dancing is pure joy).
Perhaps the most surprising of all, and maybe the best reason, to dance is that it can improve self-confidence and self-esteem. If we get over feeling silly, we may find we’re able to access some pretty spectacular stuff, be it a double pirouette or just a really rockin’ box step.
Want to get a workout without even realizing you’re working? Improve your fitness in one of the most enjoyable ways possible with dance! You might consider checking out the expansive list of dance classes available on ClassPass, which range from dance-centric cardio workouts like Zumba and Jazzercise to modern dance to drop-in tap and ballet, even Bhangra, Broadway and Argentinian styles, depending on the city.
Learn a new skill, have a ridiculously fun time and get fit doing it. Dance will definitely make you smile.