Judging by the ratings of Dancing With The Stars, or Britain’s counterpart Strictly Come Dancing, time on the dance floor has become very popular and dance as exercise might be just the bit of fun that everyone needs to stick with the aerobic workouts known to be so very good for your health. Two recent studies, one out of Italy, the other conducted in the United Kingdom, suggest this might be the way to go, and both were presented at the most recent annual meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine in Seattle.
The Italian project found that salsa dancing improved cardiovascular fitness, while the UK work discovered that the less strenuous, but still great fun, fox trot or tango steps added two thousand steps to a subject’s daily walking total.
Ten thousand steps are recommended by experts for good health, but every little bit helps, specially as you get older.
The Italian researchers looked at lively salsa dancing, measuring the heart rate and oxygen levels in dancers who were doing the dance either during lessons, at a night club or doing a group dance known as the rueda de casino.
This work involved eleven pairs of dancers, of an average age of 36 years old.
The maximum heart rate of the dancers went up 58-75% and their oxygen levels went up 41-56%, depending on where the subjects danced.
Dancing at the nightclub was the most aerobic of the three places, though all increased heart rate and oxygen levels.
“Salsa is a spirited dance,” study author Gian Pietro Emerenziani, from the University of the Studies of Rome, in Italy points out. “With this form of dance, you are clearly getting a workout. All three types of salsa in our study, practiced frequently, will have a positive impact on health and fitness.”
Taking their cue from the popularity of the dance shows, a team of UK researchers conducted a study of the effects of dancing by offering a 12-week series of ballroom dancing lessons to a group of non-active adults.
The average age of the 27 subjects was 53; most, 22, were females. They attended lessons once a week for two hours, all led by a qualified instructor. The dances the subjects learned and performed included the tango, fox trot and cha-cha.
“Learning to dance can be a fun, social, local and friendly way to enjoy low-intensity physical activity and skill learning,” explains the author of the second of the two studies, Stephen Cobley who is a senior lecturer at Leeds Metropolitan University in the United Kingdom.
Dancing means you don’t have to go to the gym or get all hot and sweaty to get the cardio benefit of a workout.
It helps strengthen bones and muscles without hurting joints, it tones your body, helps with posture and balance, improves your stamina and flexibility, reduces stress, wards off potential problems like diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, osteoporosis and even depression.
As you move your feet, you want to keep an eye on your heart rate however, so that you’re sure the dancing is intense enough.
It’s also important not to take away the benefits of the workout by consuming high calorie drinks or snacks while you’re out.
Before you lace up those dancing shoes be sure that you’ve spoken to your doctor about what type of activity is right for you, especially if you’ve been inactive for a long time.