Gone are the days when dancing was simply a boogie in a club on occasional Saturday nights. Dance classes are popping up all over the place as people are starting to embrace this full-body workout, and according to an NHS survey in 2014, more than 4.8 million people regularly attend community dance groups in England alone. We see dancers on stage and screen in musicals and music videos, and even old-fashioned dances like Ballroom and Foxtrot have come back into fashion in recent years, thanks to celebrity dance programmes like ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ and ‘Dancing With The Stars’.
Burn up the floor
Whether you’re hopping or bopping, you will still be burning calories when you dance. Here’s a breakdown of the average calories burned per hour in different dance classes (based on a person who weighs 150lbs):
Unsurprisingly, the more energetic the dance, the more calories you will be burning, but don’t let that put you off trying some of the gentler options, as introducing any kind of dance into your life will provide you with much more than just calorie burning and weight loss.
Dance to the beat of your own drum
Dancing and music go hand-in-hand, and there is a type of dance for every genre out there. Whatever tickles your earbuds when it comes to tunes, you’ll find a dance class to get you into the swing. Elvis fan? Join in at a jive. Is Beyoncé more your thing? Give Hip Hop a pop. Yes, even headbanging technically counts too, although you may need paracetamol and a lie down afterwards… There’s no easier way to make your body move than to put on a track that you really love, so why not choose a dance that suits your music preferences too?
You’ve gotta swing your hips now
With dancing comes steps, routines and choreography. Most dances require a strong recall of some very fetching moves, and you don’t always get the instructions shouted out at you whilst you’re doing them (except if you’re taking part in the Hokey Kokey, of course). Although potentially complex to begin with, the more practice that is put in place, the easier these routines will become. As the brain juices work harder, your memory is improved, not only for the dance moves but your general mental ability too. Just like a crossword or Sudoku, dancing will keep your brain alert and spritely; some studies have even found that dancing can aid the memory of previously forgotten facts.
Let’s twist again
However, it’s not just learning the steps that count – you have to actually do them too! Sadly for those of us with two left feet, this simply can’t be avoided. The good news is though that the more you dance and the better you become, you will also be improving your body’s flexibility, balance, coordination and reflexes. All of these things will not only improve your everyday movements, but you will also be protecting your core and preventing yourself from injury, especially when taking part in other forms of exercise.
It’s in the heart and the blood
Just like cycling on a bike or running on a treadmill, getting your body moving through dance raises your pulse, increases circulation and strengthens your heart, meaning that you will be at a lower risk of many cardiovascular diseases like high blood pressure, blood sugar level control, blood vessel function, and cholesterol too. Dancing aids the control of lipids, which is another name for the fats that exist inside the blood. These raise the levels of good cholesterol, as well as lowering the bad. When dancing you have to focus on controlling your breathing, thereby regulating your heartbeat and increasing your lung capacity. According to the National Institutes of Health, physical movement will increase the flow rate of antibodies in the bloodstream, which will also give your immune system a boost too.
Head, shoulders, knees and toes
Dance is considered a weight-bearing exercise, meaning that you are forcing your body to work against gravity. Not only do weight-bearing exercises benefit your muscles, but they are actually the best form of workout for your skeleton too. When doing this kind of activity, your skeletal system takes in more calcium through cells called osteoblasts. This makes your skeleton stronger, giving you more support and preventing fractures and breakages. It is particularly important to encourage the growth of bone mass once you reach the age of thirty, as your bones naturally lose mass after this time. Women should also aim to look after their bone strength as post-menopause, estrogen levels drop and calcium is not absorbed into the bones anymore.
Arthritis Care Awareness Week runs annually in mid-May. Although arthritis causes difficulty in movement, gentle exercises like dancing can ease the symptoms and discomfort that sufferers face. Because dance keeps your joints lubricated, it can also help to prevent arthritis from developing too.
Dance away the blues
Dancing has been used as a form of stress relief for thousands of years (and not just in 80s film sequences starring Kevin Bacon…). By moving and stretching yourself, your body will experience both a mental and physical release. When you dance you naturally release endorphins. These are pain-relief chemicals that are proven to make you feel less stressed, and therefore happier and more relaxed. It has been suggested in certain studies that dancing releases more endorphins than running or cycling, most likely due to the additional chemical reaction that takes place when listening to music.
You ARE the dancing Queen
Passion, romance, desperation and joy: there’s a dance for every emotion. Many people find the idea of such raw self-expression quite daunting and potentially embarrassing, but pushing out of this comfort zone and conquering these fears will help you to increase your confidence, as well as provide yourself with a huge sense of achievement. There’ll be no more dancing in the dark; soon, you will be the ruler of the dance floor!
It takes two to Tango…
Whether it’s ballroom or belly dancing, having company improves most dances, and many require a partner in crime. Whether it’s your friends, your mum or your other half, this can be the best excuse for encouraging your loved ones to get active too, increasing commitment and enjoyment for everyone involved. If it’s a romantic partner that you’re dancing with, you may also be able to see improvements to your relationship too (see our article on the benefits of exercising with a partner here). On the other hand, entering a dance class as a single is a great way to meet new people and extend your social circle into new areas.
By introducing dance into your life, you’ll find yourself fitter, healthier, more confident, energized and in a better mood. What more could you really ask for? Whether it’s the beginning of your fitness journey or you’ve been exercising for years, we all have to battle with keeping our motivation alive. What better way to keep motivated and interested than to pick something that you know you’ll enjoy? Dance is a great way of making sure you keep the fun in your fitness regime.
At Active Nation, there are two classes on offer that bridge the gap between exercise and dance:
Since its creation in 1998, Zumba has fast become a household name across the globe. You might be surprised to hear, however, that this Latin dancercise class was born by mistake… Beto Perez, a Colombian aerobics instructor, turned up to teach one day when suddenly he realised he’d forgotten to bring his music tape with him. Thinking fast, he went back to his car, rummaged around, and returned to his class with a cassette of salsa and merengue music, and improvised steps to go with the tracks. The class was a success so Perez decided to put a name to it.
From that small dance group in the late 90s, Zumba is now taught to 15 million people in gyms and studios spanning 180 different countries. Zumba aims to provide its participants with a workout that’s more like a party, having fun whilst burning some serious calories (up to 600 per hour, depending on your level of intensity).
Find out more about Active Nation’s Zumba classes, including pricing and venues, here.
Compared to Zumba, Sh’bam is the new kid on the block. The class is part of the Les Mills company, also responsible for other classes at Active Nation like Les Mills Grit, CX Worx, Body Attack, Body Pump, Body Combat, Body Balance and RPM. Its namesake, a four-time Olympian athlete who represented his country in track and field events, founded the Les Mills group in 1968 in New Zealand. The group went international in 1990 and today, instructors around the world are bringing Les Mills’ classes to fitness fanatics.
Although similar in terms of calorie burning and benefits, there are some differences between Zumba and Sh’bam. Where Zumba focuses on Latin music, Sh’bam has a playlist which contains tracks from the top 40.
Find out more about Active Nation’s Sh’bam classes, including pricing and venues, here.
Enjoy a dance class, on us!
Tempted to try out either Zumba or Sh’bam?
View the class schedules at your local Active Nation venues by clicking the links below;