Dancing is an excellent form of exercise and brings lots of other surprising health benefits, too.
When we dance, we expend more than 300 calories every half-hour, according to a report from the University of Brighton in the UK. That meets or exceeds the amount of energy we burn during an easy run, or swim the report shows, and even relatively tame forms of dance burn about the same number of calories as cycling.
Dancing demands a lot of energy output because it involves movement in all directions. Whilst running, swimming and other forms of physical activity use rhythm and momentum to keep us moving, there is a lot of accelerating and decelerating in dancing, which the body is less able to do in an energy efficient way; so all of the starting, stopping and changing directions burns lots of calories even though we’re not covering a lot of ground.
The amount of energy we expend has a lot to do with how hard we’re pushing ourselves. But burning calories isn’t the only benefit to dancing. The up and down and side to side movements of dance may likewise activate and train many of our body’s support, muscles and tendons.
Like other forms of cardio exercise, dancing also seems to have mood and mind benefits. A 2007 study (by Sungwoon Kim and Jingo Kin of Kyungpook National University, Korea) looked at moods after various exercises and found that hip hop dancing improved energy, enhanced mood and lowered stress in ways similar to aerobic exercise.
The psychological benefits are also impressive. For decades, some therapists have prescribed dancing as an effective therapy for those who suffer from social anxiety or fear of public speaking. The idea is if we can loosen up enough to dance in front of strangers, we’re a lot less likely to feel self-conscious, when hanging out or speaking in front of an audience.
Research dating back to the 1980s supports the idea that dancing can curb anxiety. Dancing can also encourage social bonding. Talking with a stranger, dancing in rhythm with others, lights up brain pathways that blur the barriers our mind puts up between ourselves and a stranger, and so helps us feel a sense of connection and sameness, suggested in 2014 study by the Social and Evolutionary Neuroscience Research Group, Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Oxford.
Finally, the touch aspect of dancing with a partner can offer additional benefits. Touch is the first sense that emerges during infancy and the more experts examine the benefits of holding hands and other forms of human-to-human physical contact, the more they find that touching improves well-being and reduces stress and anxiety.
Source: Time Magazine July 2017