Why Dancing Is the Best Thing You Can Do For Your Body

 

Dance floors tend to be sweaty places for a reason. All of those shimmies and shakes burn energy like you wouldn’t believe—and come with many other surprising health benefits, too

When you cut a rug, you can 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 you burn during an easy run or swim, the report shows. 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,” says JP Santana, a principal Director of Latin Jam Workout. While running, swimming and other propulsive forms of physical activity use rhythm and momentum to keep you moving, “there is a lot of accelerating and decelerating in dancing, which the body is less able to do in an energy efficient way,” Santana says.
 
If running is like driving on a freeway, dancing is more like motoring through a busy city, he says. All of that starting, stopping and changing directions burns a ton of fuel even though you’re not covering a lot of ground.
 
Of course, the amount of energy you expend has a lot to do with how hard you’re pushing yourself. A gentle two-step isn’t going to measure up to an intense, hilly run. But torching calories isn’t the only upside to dancing. Just as trail running and hiking better engage your lower-body joints and muscles than straight-ahead, level-ground locomotion, the up-and-down and side-to-side movements of dance may likewise activate and train many of your body’s little support muscles and tendons.
 
Like other forms of cardio exercise, dancing also seems to have mood and mind benefits. A 2007 study found that hip hop dancing improved energy, buoyed mood and lowered stress in ways similar to aerobic exercise.
 
A more recent study, published earlier this year in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, linked dancing to improved “white matter” integrity in the brains of older adults. Your brain’s white matter can be thought of as its connective tissue. That tissue tends to break down gradually as we age, which leads to a loss of processing speed and the thinking and memory problems that arise later in life, says Agnieszka Burzynska, an assistant professor of neuroscience at Colorado State University and that study’s first author.
 

 

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