Dancing and, in particular, ballroom dancing has been proven to have powerful health benefits. The Einstein Aging Study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2003 found that ballroom dancing twice a week made people less likely to develop dementia. Of the 11 physical activities studied, only dancing was tied to a lower dementia risk. This was attributed to the intellectual, rather than the physical, aspect of dance. Avid ballroom dancers recorded a 76 percent risk reduction, the highest of all activities measured.
Dancing can burn as many calories as walking or riding a bike. Dance 30 minutes straight and you will burn 200-400 calories, the same as walking, swimming or cycling. Doing a quickstep is the same caloric level as running a four-minute mile. This is according to researchers at the Mayo Clinicin Rochester, Minn.
A study presented in 2006 by the Universita Politecnica delle Marche School of Medicine at the American Heart Association meeting in Chicago found that 44 patients who danced three times a week for two months had slightly improved heart and lung function and were happier than peers who worked out on a treadmill or stationary bike.
A McGill University study in 2005 found that seniors who dance have better posture and balance and are more mentally fit than those who don’t. Thirty healthy volunteers from Montreal, aged 62 to 90, took part in the study and were divided into two groups: one group was assigned to take twice weekly walks through the city’s parks; the other group was given tango lessons. Nine of the 14 tangoing seniors “dramatically” reduced their risk of having a serious, accidental fall, compared to just three out of 10 in the walking group, who showed only marginal improvement. Dancing led to better co-ordination and balance compared to walking. And the dancers’ “working memory” improved when both groups performed tests such as reordering random letters and numbers in sequence. The Tangoers scored on average in the 65-percentile range up from 50 percent, an improvement that continued weeks after their lessons ended. The walkers improved to about 54 or 55 percent, but the improvement didn’t last.
Whether its ballet or ballroom, dancing can help people of all ages and physical abilities get and stay in shape. Like other moderate, low-impact, weight bearing activities, dancing can help:
Strengthen bones and muscles without hurting your joints
Tone your entire body
Improve your posture and balance, which can prevent falls
Increase your stamina and flexibility
Reduce stress and tension
Provide opportunities to meet people
Ward off illnesses like diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, osteoporosis and depression