Although dancing, today, is a social activity wherein most dancing is about having fun, recreation and self-expression; dance has always been a part of human culture, rituals and celebrations. Dance is an art form involving rhythmic movements to music or beats. Dancing is also an enjoyable way to be more physically active and stay fit. The principle advantage being that it can be adopted by any age group in different forms.
We have an arena of dances, classical forms & folk to choose from. Ballet, belly dancing, salsa, ballroom dancing, hip-hop, square-dancing and tap dancing are different dancing styles being adopted for fun & fitness. One can choose the dance form that suits one the best!
Dance has both physical and mental health benefits.It is a perfect way for people of any age and all ages to get excellent cardiovascular (aerobic) exercise. As with other aerobic exercises, dancing should be performed 20 to 30 minutes, three to six times per week.
Lately, even we doctors have started prescribing dance to overweight / obese individuals since we find compliance is better than asking people to join a gym or go cycling.
- From belly dancing to hip hop to jazz to bollywood, dancing increases the heart rate, the breathing rate, increases metabolism and thus helps burn body fat, lowers cholesterol and blood sugar in diabetics.
- Since, it involves movements of various parts of the body while still targeting the abdominal muscles with its twists & turns, it results in a reduction of belly fat and shrinking of the waistline (the spare tyre) and helps tone muscles.
- Dancing also increases flexibility & hence post exercise joint stiffness & pain is minimal; also stress on joints is much less than in aerobic exercise,jogging & cycling. Hence low impact dances like ballroom dance are suited for elderly.
- Just like any other form of exercise, dance increases energy levels& boosts memory due to increased blood circulation to the specific parts of the brain.
- Dancing in a group (a dance class) is the ideal setting to make new friends and branch out socially – a much needed activity what with increasing reliance on digital social media. Being socially engaged (non-digitally) leads to lower stress, increased happiness, reduces chances of clinical depression and in general makes us happier.
- We all will agree that maintaining positive relationships is as important as healthy eating and exercises.
- Dance is also an anti-dote for anger & upset mood. Those who remember actor Kamal Hasan dancing till he collapses on hearing that his bellowed Rati Agnihotri is marrying someone else. He was actually burning stress products and dissipating anger.
- For the elderly, this form of exercise helps improve gait and balance, which in turn reduces the risk of falling. For the elderly, dancing also provides an opportunity of socializing thus boosting their self-esteem.
- Medical fitness is a must for those above 40, morbidly obese or those with a disease like high blood pressure, diabetes or heart disease.
- Footwear (shoes) should be well fitting for the kind of dance and the individual.
- Ensure consuming enough (plenty) of water before, during & after dance.
- Like any other aerobic exercise, warm up before& stretching at the end must be practiced.
- Leg strengthening exercises are a must.
- It is very easy to get carried away with the passion but pay attention to your heart rate – it should be at a comfortable pace and one should never feel distressed.
- If one feels that heart, breathing, any of the joints or back is being unduly stressed with dancing, slow down and speak to either the doctor or the dance master.
If not interested in a class, get the ideal music, find a dance style that suits you the best and get shaking at home.
Dr Suman Rao, an MBBS, 20 years of practice in family medicine, has won awards for presenting papers on cases and over 5 years of training claims accessors on cases.