Dance Yourself Healthy

It's 2011 and I want to have some fun! And, I want to look good and feel even better for it. How do I plan on accomplishing all three? It's easy: I'm going to get in touch with my inner Debbie Allen and dance, dance, dance.

Dancing, like walking or cycling, is a great no-cost or low-cost way to build aerobic fitness, improve balance and strengthen your muscles at any age. And you don't have to wait for a special event or find a partner to enjoy dance's benefits. If you're a mom, your little one(s) is the best dance partner imaginable! Trust me, there's nothing more fun than rocking your best Snoopy dance or robot moves while dancing wildly to upbeat and fun music by kid faves Kimmy Schwimmy or Laurie Berkner.

You can even pick dance as your main physical activity. Research has shown that dancing gives even formerly inactive people a good workout. Beginners in a tango class logged about 20 percent of their recommended daily steps by participating in the twice-a-week program.

The fun factor of dancing helps encourage you to stick with the activity. Many people find dancing more enjoyable than spending time in a gym on traditional exercise equipment. Dance classes provide social connections that help improve mood and build feelings of well-being. If you're concerned that you may not be fit enough to tap your toes in public or that your two left feet may be your downfall, don't be. There are dance groups for all activity levels—and more dance styles than you ever knew existed. From A (Argentine Tango) to Z (Zumba), there's a dance out there for you.

Groups specializing in line dancing are especially good if you don't have a regular dance partner, but many classes are set up to make sure that everyone dances, regardless of whether you come alone or not. 

To get started with dancing for fitness:
•    Borrow dance DVDs from your local library and try them at home.
•    Participate in a community dance class through your local adult school or recreation center.
•    Alternate dance sessions with walks or jogs you may already be taking.
•    Wear comfortable shoes and loose clothing.
•    Bring water and a face towel for comfort.
    
And get ready to smile. Dancing increases social contact, improves self-esteem and encourages new friendships and deepens the connection with old ones.

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