During my life I have always seen dance as a physical activity. While I admit some classes are tougher than others, most classes do burn calories equal or greater than by bike commute to university. So it seems strange to me that quite a few people that don’t see dance as exercise. While the number of people who think this is on the decline, due to new dance fitness regimes, it is sometime very helpful to have the benefits written down for all to see. This is what I intend to do in this post, I’ll go through the benefits people see in dance and find evidence for these areas. This will help you if you’re thinking of starting a class or want to find a class that helps a certain feature.
The first of the benefits that I’ve alluded to in the first paragraph, was that dance can burn calories. Burning calories allows us to lose weight, if we eat the right amount of food to really gain from the exercise. Calories burnt during a session will vary with many things, the amount of movement involved in the class, the weight you are, and the amount of effort you put into the class. Quotes for an hours class can vary between 200-500 calories (Alpert, 2011), I usually burn around 272 kcals (a unit for energy and therefore calories) during an hours ballet session. This is compared to an hour of cycling which burns just 30kcals more (302kcals), on a fairly flat route with a hill at the end. To put this into perspective a krispy kreme chocolate iced doughnut with sprinkles has 260kcals in it. So even if you didn’t want to lose weight through dance it would allow you to have a treat more often without putting on a lot of weight. If you did wish to use dance as a method to loosing weight you would need to create a deficit in calories, burning more than what you eat.
Another benefit of dance is that it improves your balance quite significantly. Research has shown that balance increases are shown in a rising trend through each dance session you attend (Alpert, et al., 2009). While for many increases in balance may not seem a worthwhile reason to attend dance class, for others improving balance can mean saving your life. Particularly in the older population balancing issues can lead to falls, by increasing your balance through a fun interactive method you’re more likely to continue and see the benefits of this. A trend that has been capture by an app currently available for android phones, “Dance! Don’t fall“. The app centres itself around teaching the user a dance phrase which they then perform with cues from the app, there’s also increased user interaction through the use of feedback to let the user know how their doing. Competitions can also be run in the app where different users can come together and compete.
While physical benefits are more obvious, dance can also benefit people psychologically the first of these are increases in memory. By participating in dance you are engaging in activities that require spatial knowledge and memory of the steps. Regular involvement in these types of tasks should increase their ability to work, making it easier to remember or to halt the decline in memory. While it may seem clear that the more experience you have in these activities, ie, years you’ve been involved in them, the higher boost to you memory you will see and while this is true there is also another finding that goes in hand with this. The amount of dance you currently do impacts your spatial memory to a slightly greater level than your previous involvement in dance (Barhorst, 2013).
There are also a lot more benefits to dance; increases in mood, flexibility, muscle tone, confidence and much more. The social aspect of dance may set it apart from other form of exercise like treadmill running or jogging. Finding the right class that enables you to see the benefits you want is key, but also keeping an open mind about how you want those benefits to come about. It may be that a style of dance you didn’t really want to do offers you greater benefits, ie, ballet is a lot better at increasing flexibility than aerobic dance.