Summary: With social distancing rules relaxing, dancing is once again a popular activity among adults of all ages. Dancing provides both physical and psychological benefits.
The research highlights dancing, a cardio exercise, improves balance, strength, and even memory. Researchers emphasize the importance of safe practices like learning proper technique, warming up, and using appropriate footwear to prevent injuries.
Dancing checks multiple boxes for health: it enhances physical balance, core strength, extremity strength, and it provides an excellent cardio workout. It also boosts psychological health by promoting social interaction.
Studies show that dancing, a physical exercise that requires remembering steps, can help keep the memory active for individuals of all ages.
As an athletic activity, dancing requires good practices to prevent injuries. This includes learning the proper technique, starting slowly, warming up and cooling down, listening to your body, staying hydrated, wearing the right footwear, and practicing good dance etiquette.
Source: Hospital for Special Surgery
With physical distancing no longer a concern for most people, dancing for fun, exercise and social connection is back on the agenda for adults of all ages. Its popularity is apparent on Meetup.com, which lists numerous dance events around the country.
Kathleen Davenport, MD, a physiatrist at HSS Florida in West Palm Beach, is not surprised. She specializes in the nonsurgical treatment of orthopedic injuries and conditions, with special expertise in dance medicine.
HSS Florida is the regional outpatient location of New York’s Hospital for Special Surgery, consistently ranked the number one hospital for orthopedics by U.S. News & World Report and other organizations.
“I have patients ranging in age from young children to 90-year-old adults who enjoy Latin and other styles of dancing,” says Dr. Davenport, who serves as company physician for the Miami City Ballet and is president-elect of the International Association for Dance Medicine and Science. At HSS Florida, she treats both professional and recreational dancers.
A competitive ballroom dancer herself, she enthusiastically supports the activity for its physical and psychological benefits. “I like to say that dancing checks a lot of boxes. In social dancing, you interact with different people and can make new friends, which has multiple psychological benefits,” she explains.
“On the physical side, you need good balance, you need core strength, you need strength in your lower and upper extremities if you’re doing partner work. Dancing can also be an excellent cardio workout.”
Some studies show that physical exercise is also good for brain health. “When dancing you need to remember the steps and how to do them. We have found that dancing is beneficial for people of all ages as it can help keep memory active as we go through our years,” Dr. Davenport says.
Perhaps best of all, dancing just feels good, with many people experiencing a sensation similar to the so-called “runner’s high.” “When you do something enjoyable, particularly physical exercise, endorphins are released, which are our ‘happy’ hormones. By releasing these hormones, our body encourages us to keep engaging in these activities,” she explains.
As with any athletic activity, good practices help prevent injury. Dr. Davenport offers advice to get the most out of dancing for fun and physical fitness:
It’s all about technique. If new to social dancing, take some lessons to learn the correct steps and the proper technique. Many social events start with a group lesson and warm up.
Start slowly. Ramp up gradually as you build muscle strength and endurance. Don’t start out by dancing for hours without a time out. This is hard on the body and can lead to injury.
Warm up ahead of time. Do a cool down after the dance with some gentle stretching.
Listen to your body. If you’re tired, take a rest. It may be advisable to skip an event if you overdid it dancing the day before. This will help you avoid an overuse injury.
Stay hydrated. Dancing can provide an excellent workout, so keep water on hand to ensure adequate fluid intake.
If you experience pain or a potential injury, however slight, come off the dance floor. Continuing to dance could turn a minor problem into a more serious injury.
Choose the right shoe for your style of dance.
Take an honest look at your footwear. For Latin dancing, for example, heels are generally recommended, but it’s not the right shoe for all women. Make sure you’re in a shoe that is supporting the activity and not causing pain.
Parents are advised to check their children’s dance shoes every year. Adults should check their shoes at least every two years or after recovering from a foot injury to make sure they still fit well.
If you’re a former or experienced dance enthusiast who has taken a break, ease back into it. Transition slowly back to your previous level.
At some venues, the music is very loud. Consider asking the DJ to lower the volume or wear ear plugs if it becomes uncomfortable.
People just starting out may want to learn about dance etiquette. Studios and dance clubs often post helpful information on their websites.
Dr. Davenport says engaging in good practices can help everyone reap the benefits of dancing now and in the future.
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