from February, 1994, Mayo Clinic Health
Letter with permission of Mayo Foundation
for Medical Education & Research,
Rochester, MN 55905
Evelyn resolved that in
1994 she'd exercise regularly. But it's only the
beginning of the new year and she's already bored with
her new stationary bike. The rowing machine and
treadmill at the YWCA also hold little appeal.
burning calories to socializing with friends, dancing offers
these health benefits:
When a friend coaxed her to go along for an
evening of free dance lessons, she realized exercise
doesn't have to be a chore.
It's true. Whether you're swirling across the
floor to a Strauss Waltz or doing do-si-dos to the
commands of a square-dance caller, you're getting
exercise-and probably having fun too.
- Dancing can burn as many calories as walking, swimming or
riding a bicycle. During a half hour of sustained dancing
you can burn between 200 and 400 calories. One factor that
determines how many calories you'll expend is distance. In
one study, researchers attached pedometers to square dancers
and found each person covered nearly five miles in a single
conditioning - Regular exercise can lead to a slower
heart rate, lower blood pressure and an improved cholesterol
profile (see Medical Essay, June 1991). Experts typically
recommend 30 to 40 minutes of continuous activity three to
four times a week. Dancing may not provide all the
conditioning you need, but it can help. The degree of
cardiovascular conditioning depends on how vigorously you
dance, how long you dance continuously and how regularly you
Strong bones - The
side-to-side movements of many dances strengthen your weight
bearing bones (tibia, fibula and femur) and can help prevent
or slow loss of bone mass (osteoporosis).
Rehabilitation - If
you're recovering from heart or knee surgery, movement may
be part of your rehabilitation. Dancing is a positive
alternative to aerobic dance or jogging.
Sociability - Dancing
contains a social component that solitary fitness endeavors
don't. It gives you an opportunity to develop strong social
ties which contribute to self-esteem and a positive outlook
(see Mayo Clinic Health Letter, February 1992)
Tomorrow night when you
consider settling down for a little television, turn on the
music instead. After a few spins around the living room,
you'll have so much fun you may forget you're exercising.
benefits and risks to dancing depend on how much oomph you
put into it. Different types of dance require varying
amount of energy.
If you have heart disease or other medical concerns, check
with your doctor before taking up dance as a new activity.
Then follow these steps:
Warm up - Before
starting to dance, spend a few minutes stretching.
Practice a few dance steps to prepare your muscles for
Ease into the pace -
Begin with slower, less demanding rhythms and build up to
faster tempos. Easing into activities lessens the chance of
pulling or straining a muscle.
Know your limits -
Take breaks from dancing if you feel undue fatigue or
shortness of breath. If necessary, sit out the next number.