I’m going to say something now that may well offend Yogis everywhere (so I apologise in advance!) but…I truly think dance is the ultimate workout for health and happiness.
Before I cause a mini riot, let me explain myself fully! I am of course 100% biased because dance is my biggest passion in life. I take classes four times a week and teach a lovely group of ladies burlesque every Tuesday. However, I can also backup my huge claim with shiny facts, I promise 🙂
Dance is good for mind, body and soul
Dance is one of the oldest forms of communication, having been used to tell stories way back before written language. Not only that but we have evidence that dance has been used as a form of healing right back to around 3300 B.C. So what is it that makes dance so powerful?
First of all, according to Costas Karageorghis for Inside Sport Psychology, dance is “an instinctive response”. Our brains and bodies are programmed to want to move to music. In fact, the desire to dance is a universal phenomenon. Think about the animal kingdom – everything from bees to seahorses – use dance as a way to communicate in some way.
Since we are naturally programmed to move to music, dance is a great way to connect with our bodies. By learning and practicing dance movements we are using our bodies in a conscious way. We are aware of the feeling of working our different muscles, our posture, keeping in time with the music, our breath. And at the same time we have control over our minds because we are thinking about the music, how we express certain movements, how our facial expressions connect with the mood of the dance. In effect, we leave no space in our minds for anxiety and no unconscious tension in our bodies.
“Dance is the hidden language of the soul of the body.”
As Martha Graham (the pioneer of modern dance, pictured here) so wonderfully put it, ‘Dance is the hidden language of the soul of the body.’ Dance is a way for us to express emotions – even some we might not know we had. It allows us to connect with the music and the moment and let go of any worries and feelings that have been weighing us down during the day.
The definition of mindfulness, according to Merriam Webster, is the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis. I would argue that dance can be used as a form of mindfulness. We are completely focused and in the moment, whilst aware of our body, our emotions and our mind.
And speaking of the mind, of course, dance improves your memory, coordination and boosts your ability to focus. It also makes use of your creativity – helping you to develop your imagination and improve your visualisation skills. It really is the ultimate brain workout, but what about its other benefits?
4 Reasons Dance Is The Ultimate Workout For Health And Happiness
Okay, so what are my key reasons for claiming dance is the ultimate workout for health and happiness?
- First of all, dance is a brilliant form of exercise because it contains both aerobic and anaerobic movements. Exercises like interval training are often cited as being the best form of workout for the body and dance is definitely a form of interval training. Dance requires you to jump, turn and move fluidly, all of which are forms of aerobic exercise. It also includes movements such as squats and balancing (often on one leg and on tiptoes), both of which are great anaerobic exercises. Dance also improves flexibility, strength, stability and stamina, all of which help protect the body as it ages.
- Dance is a great stress reliever. A recent study in Psychotherapy Research showed that patients who let out their emotions in a creative way experienced greater reductions in anxiety symptoms than the control group. Furthermore, if you take a dance class with other people, the social bonds you form in those classes also lead to lower rates of stress.
- With lower levels of stress, dance also helps people suffering from anxiety and depression. According to a study in The Arts in Psychotherapy and Isabella A. Pericleous’ paper, Healing Through Movement: Dance/Movement Therapy for Major Depression, dance has been proven effective in treating those suffering from depression. In fact, dancing is better than vigorous exercise in this respect. The mood-boosting chemicals released by the brain help keep depressive symptoms at bay.
- And finally, regular dance workouts can help boost your energy levels. As mentioned above, dancing releases endorphins (those helpful “feel-good” chemicals). Exercise helps release these chemicals into our brain and make us feel great. Plus, those same endorphins help give us more energy in turn. Good eh! It also helps improve heart health and stamina – so you’ll feel less worn out from completing your usual tasks and have more energy to spare. And finally, a study in the journal, Mental Health and Physical Activity, has shown a clear link between regular exercise and better quality of sleep (and less daytime sleepiness).
So, there you have it my lovelies! Now it’s your turn… Do you dance? Have you ever tried? If not, I have the perfect solution!
I’ve created a FREE dance fitness workout. It’s a 20-minute workout that combines dance cardio and resistance training and will help you feel fitter and more energised. Sign up below:
Love, Harriet xxx