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Two left feet? The health benefits of dance

shutterstock_289668500We often tell our patients that a little bit of physical activity is better than none. For some of them, finding ways to introduce exercise into their lifestyle is tricky. Not everyone feels comfortable in a gym setting and many shy away from activities that they feel are too sporty for them. Dancing offers the perfect way to get into exercise – and with the benefits not just limited to physical.

Dancing has grown in popularity in recent years, probably due to the success of TV programmes like Strictly Come Dancing and Got To Dance.
Every year more than 4.8 million people regularly attend community dance groups in England alone.

This week is Two Left Feet Week, which aims to celebrate the fact that while we’re not all Freds & Gingers, Nureyevs & Bussells, dancing can have a hugely positive impact on our health.

There are the obvious physical health benefits of dancing. It’s good for cardiovascular fitness and can help tone and strengthen muscles in the legs, buttocks, back, arms and shoulders. Dancing can work wonders for our posture and can strengthen our bones. It’s also wonderful exercise for improving flexibility and reducing stiffness. Dancing helps to improve balance and co-ordination too, making it the perfect activity for us as we get older and are more prone to trips and falls. And, of course, a fair amount of jiving, salsa dancing and waltzing is great for keeping the pounds off! Like other forms of exercise, it can promote better sleep too.

But the health benefits of dance go way beyond the physical. Getting together with others in a dance class or dance-based exercise class can be great for our mental health: exercising to music can lift our spirits, help relieve stress and fight depression. And there are the social benefits of getting out and making friends with people with similar interests, which can help to boost our mood and self esteem.

Studies have shown that dancing may help to boost our memory too, having a positive impact on the part of the brain that controls memory.

Even putting on some music at home and bopping around the bedroom with the kids or grandchildren can bring the health benefits of a workout. And while we’re having fun dancing to our favourite tunes we don’t actually notice how much exercise we’re doing!

So you see, it really doesn’t matter if we have two left feet; the positives of dancing far outweigh the negative of not having the nimble footwork of Michael Flatley.

Will you dance for health? This post on the Two Left Feet Week website can help you choose a dance style to suit you. Have you got the stamina for fast paced Latino dancing or a retro jive class, or would something with a slower pace suit you better? Remember to start slowly and build up your activity gradually.

We also like this post on Everyday Health listing nine health benefits of dance.

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