Get Started
Get Started

Health & Exercise Forum

Apr 21, 2022

Health Benefits of Dancing

The last two columns in “Health & Exercise Forum” have been dedicated to the health benefits of exercise for Parkinson’s disease. Specifically, the use of dance was featured as a method to promote strength, balance, coordination and agility in this population. However, dance as a form of exercise and for the promotion of balance, coordination and agility, is not limited to those with neurological conditions…it is beneficial for everyone! In fact, my wife, Esther and I, have always enjoyed our dance classes with Vince Brust!

Like most forms of exercise, if done regularly, dance can have multiple health benefits. If dance is your only form of exercise, make it your goal to sustain the activity for about 30 minutes a day, 3-4 days per week for the most value.

If you have any doubt or reservations about the ability of dance to improve your health and wellness, take notice of the muscle tone, flexibility, agility and coordination of a professional dancer...ballet, modern, hip hop, jazz, etc. They are incredible athletes and artists!

10 Benefits of Dancing

1. Improved Agility and Flexibility

It is common to lose agility and flexibility with age especially if you regularly perform the same limited movements throughout your day and lifetime. This will lead to stiffness and lack of flexibility, especially for new or season activities which can make you more vulnerable for injury and pain. Lower back pain and calf or hamstring strains are most common. Research suggests that dance can help.

For example, in one study it was found that cross-country skiers who received months of dance training showed improvements in joint mobility and muscle flexibility of the spine, as well as their speed and agility.

2. Balance and Coordination

It is also expected that balance and coordination are also compromised with age. It’s one of the reasons that older adults are so prone to falls. The research also supports the value of dance to offset this problem.

One particular study found that in people over the age of 80 years, social dancing helped improve balance and walking speed, as well as contributing to a more stable walking pattern.

3. Cardiovascular Health

Moderate-intensity dance, performed continuously for at least 30 minutes on a regular basis has been found to reduce the risk of death from cardiovascular disease in some studies. Moreover, it has been more effective in prevention than average-pace walking ...and is less boring!

4. Muscle Tone and Strength

Most activities of daily living (walking, climbing stairs) occur in a linear and forward directon. However, dance has not set direction and can move in multiple planes (forwards, backwards, and sideways with diagonal and rotational components.

These unlimited movements, not only improves agility, coordination, and balance, but also strengthens muscles that often get forgotten like your core and abdominals.

5. Weight Loss and Maintenance

As with any cardiovascular exercise, dance is a form of aerobic exercise which burns calories. This is especially true if performed a minimum of moderate-intensity for 30 minutes or longer.

According to the American Diabetes Association, aerobic exercise can support weight loss.

6. Osteoporosis Prevention

Weight-bearing exercise is the cornerstone for any osteoporosis prevention program and dance is a prime example.

According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, high-impact, weight-bearing exercises, such as certain forms of dance, can help maintain bone strength and even build new bone mass. This slows the development and progression of osteoporosis. It is also well established that low-impact weight-bearing exercise (dancing with the impact of jumping etc.) is effective in bone loss prevention. Dance can be whatever intensity you want it to be, depending on your mood, energy level, and physical limitations.

7. Learning, Memory and Cognition

Like most forms of exercise, especially aerobic, dance can improve cognitive health. In addition to releasing special hormones, it can also improve circulation and oxygenation to the brain to enhance brain health.

Some research suggests that dance can help create new connections between brain regions involved in long-term memory and improve mood, cognitive acuity and mental energy.

Physicians and physical therapists often recommend dance as a form of rehabilitation following brain injury, stroke or dementia.

One study found that out of many different types of exercise (including dance, swimming, golf, cycling, tennis, and others) dance was the only one associated with a lower risk of dementia for people in the study. Experts believe the benefit was due to a combo of social interaction and mental focus...that is not to say that the aforementioned types of exercise do not have value.

8. Emotional and Mental Health

Dancing can contribute to your mental health by improving mood and reducing stress. As Morrie advised in Mitch Albom’s best-selling book, Tuesdays with Mori, “dance like nobody’s watching” can be very invigorating!

Dance participants ranked mood enhancement as the number one reason for participation! One study examining people’s motivation for dancing, “mood enhancement” ranked top on the list.  The dancers felt that the activity is expressive and allows you to escape and “let your hair down.”

Some studies also suggest that dance therapy might also reduce depression, especially in those who have serious illnesses, such as breast cancer or Parkinson’s (read last week’s column). Researchers feel that this may be due to increased endorphins and lower cortisol levels.

9. Socialization

The pandemic has taught most of us a valuable lesson ... some of us have a serious need to socialize and some do not. For those like me, who thrive on being among others, dance classes and dance-style workouts often take place in groups, which allows for social bonding in a fun, light and breezy environment.

Depending on your marital status and the specific style of dance you choose (salsa, tango or swing dancing), you may even be paired up with a partner every week!

10. Boosts self-esteem

While exercise on treadmill, bike or elliptical can be great exercise, it also can be boring and repetitive. Research suggests that any form of exercise can boost self-esteem.

When dancing, however, you get all the benefits of exercise, while simultaneously learning a new skill. It can be incredibly rewarding and satisfying to master the skill, especially with others such as learning the tango.

SOURCE: “Greatest”  Debra Sullivan, Ph.D., MSN, R.N., CNE, COI

NEXT MONDAY – Read Dr. Paul J. Mackarey “Health & Exercise Forum!”   This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email: drpmackarey@msn.comPaul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an associate professor of clinical medicine GCSOM.

For all of Dr. Mackarey's articles visit