Okay, I’ll admit it… I was glued to the television Tuesday night, along with my thirteen-year-old son, to make certain my gal Rumer Willis and her partner Val Chmerkovskiy won the coveted Mirrorball trophy on Dancing with the Stars — they did! I love the finals because you see how far these dancers have come. You hear them talk about how dance has benefitted them in so many ways.
While I may not dance like Rumer, I have dabbled in ballroom since the early ’90s — way before Dancing with the Stars brought ballroom rightfully front and center stage. Even as a social dancer, I can attest that you don’t have to be on Dancing with the Stars to reap lifelong benefits from dance.
To prove my point, I’ve put together my Top 10 for how ballroom dance provides lifelong benefits!
10. Great exercise. This is a no-brainer because dance requires repetition for “muscle memory” to form. It’s impossible for your brain to tell so many different body parts to move exactly this way or that without hours of practice — head here, shoulders there, hips in alignment, arms strong, legs extended — oh, and don’t forget to point those toes! Think about it, you are engaging your brain, heart, lungs, and muscle groups! Not only are you burning calories but, over time, you are toning muscles in your arms, legs, back, and core.
9. Increases Self-Confidence. As you learn to better control how you move your body across the dance floor, especially in partnership with someone else, there is no way you could not feel better about yourself. Go on and brag on your bad self!
8. Awesome way to meet fun friends. If you like to dance, you’ll want friends who are active, healthy, and engaging. Yep! You can find them on the nearest dance floor.
7. Keeps you young and energetic. The classic Newtonian Law that a body in motion stays in motion applies to humans, too. Plus, I’m almost positive it confirms that Newton loved to dance.
6. Allows you to appreciate different types of music. When you learn different dance styles you come to appreciate different musical rhythms and beats. Who would have thought I would come to love hip-hop as much as my 13-year-old son loves Fred Astaire? Yet, it’s true!
5. Great for social skills building. Whether asking a partner to dance with you, or declining politely because your feet are killing you, social interaction is a must on the dance floor. This is especially true for social dancing, where the relaxed atmosphere often invites conversation during the dance. Even introverts like me enjoy dancing, because you’re only dancing with only one person at a time. Whew, that’s a relief!
4. Increases balance. This is huge, especially as you age. Dancing improves the communication between your brain and your muscles, as it isolates the movement of one muscle from another. Trust me, it’s harder than it looks.
3. You never stop learning. Aside from always having the opportunity to improve your style, dance is ever evolving. For example, there are 7 different tango styles with a combined syllabus of thousands of steps! That could take a few lifetimes…
2. Wards off dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Research published in the New England Journal of Medicine shows that the split-second decision making that dancing requires, forces the brain to regularly rewire its neural pathways, thus enhancing your cognitive ability. Check out this article for more on this topic.
1. Dancing makes you feel good! You don’t often see couples on the dance floor with frowns on their faces. That’s because dancing is fun! Engaging in activities that make you feel happy lessens the effects of stress and can aid in depression.
What’s the best way to start dancing? I always recommend looking for group classes in your area. Check out dance studios, clubs, and meet-up groups for offerings. Try several different types of dance and work with the one you enjoy most in the beginning. As you become more comfortable on the dance floor and working in partnership, you can always try new dances!
Dancing with the Stars logo: By ABC (ABC Website) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons