How Ballroom Dance Helps You Stay Fit, Mind & Body
By Monica Dolecka
The art of ballroom dance is taking off by storm, and it’s not only ‘Dancing with the Stars’ fans getting involved in this newest sports trend. Ordinary people everywhere are hitting the dance floor and learning how to shake their stuff. Ballroom dance is certainly the cool new thing to try, and believe it or not, you don’t need any prior experience – and you don’t even need a partner! More than ever, people are joining the dance movement to become healthier, both mentally and physically, and to advance their social circle and lead a happier and more fulfilling life.
Be the well-oiled machine you were made to be
It seems nowadays that the notion of getting enough exercise is becoming more of a way of life than a fly-by-night fad. With the surplus of healthy living tips available to us on the internet, it seems that if we want better health, all we have to do is turn on our phone or laptop and health is just a click away. Hundreds, and possibly thousands, of health and green living articles sweep us off our feet every day. New info on how to be healthier is constantly thrown at us. However, much of this info is based on changing our diet (which is important, of course) but we need to also add movement into the equation. Creative movement.
Most of us read that article on how to make a great Kale smoothie, and then later realize we have no time in the morning to actually make it. Or how about the article on the top 50 ways to reduce stress. Nearly all the tips will include temporary stress relievers, or doing something to change your diet, and sometimes without evening mentioning exercise. But movement is key to feeling better, and the more creative the hobby is (like dance), the more effective and long-lasting the effects will be. That’s where we can squeeze in the idea of ballroom dance as a great alternative to improved wellness. The thought of dancing could be intimidating at first. You may find yourself thinking, Wait, but I’m not a dancer. I’ve never danced in my life! Well, it’s about that time to change that restrictive mentality.
(side note: Studios specializing in ballroom dance like Interclub Academy of Dance in Niles, or Master Dance in Palatine have great classes for beginners with absolutely no experience. Visit them at interclubdance.com & masterdancestudio.com)
How does dance do the trick?
Firstly, engaging in dance strengthens cognitive activity in the brain by reinforcing (synaptic) connections, those responsible for improving mental acuity like memory sharpness, and fine motor skills in activities like driving, cooking, writing and exercising. A 2014 vivafifty.com article justified, “When learning a new dance, students have to remember certain moves, which correlate with the beat of the music. Our brain connects these new movements to the music, which helps us remember them. Kind of like when kids learn their ABCs by singing them.” When we move, our brain releases endorphins, often called the “feel-good” chemicals, which are released by the pituitary gland and have an almost instant positive effect on our mood. Increased endorphins make us happier (like the high we feel when we first fall in love).
Ballroom dance also increases blood circulation throughout the body, which optimizes primary functions of vital organs like the heart, lungs and brain. The Berkley Wellness Journal recently suggested, “If dancing gets your heart rate up, it can be a good form of aerobic exercise... one study even found that in people with stable chronic heart failure, slow-fast (interval) waltzing improved heart and blood vessel function and overall quality of life.”
So not only is ballroom dancing fun and mentally engaging, you’re also getting your recommended dose of exercise. It’s simple: when you move, your body is healthy and eventually tells your brain, Hey, be happy too!
Expand your mind....and your circle of friends
How many times have you stepped into a “social” setting like Starbucks – a space where people should meet and mingle – only to be greeted by a room full of heads looking down at their screens, completely absorbed in their phone like the world is about to end. As a society where almost everyone has a smart phone, we’ve subconsciously learned to become completely ignorant and oblivious to our surroundings and unfortunately, this is becoming socially acceptable.
Ballroom dance allows us to “be in the moment. We often hear about people wanting to be more connected to the present moment, and to enjoy it. Well, that is possible – if you really want it. Ballroom dance encourages us to stay engaged with others through actual physical contact, but also influences us to stay mentally connected to others –a connection that continually builds, and grows stronger over time. Dancing, especially ballroom, makes us more socially aware of our environment and our body, at the same time, and forces us to get away from the cyber world. It’s pretty difficult to tweet an update while fox-trotting!!
In your time at a ballroom dance studio, you’ll meet people from all walks of life; ones with whom you can exchange not only dance steps with, but also valuable lessons, conversations and the best of all, memories.