Dance for Fitness

Good morning, everyone! How has the first week of March been treating you? For today’s First Friday Fitness, I want to talk about Dancing. I love dance. I have been a dancer since I was eleven years old and it was through dance that I became physically strong. It’s because of dance that I now have confidence to tackle other forms of exercise. If you are not aware, dance also offers other benefits besides making one physically strong. Today I’m going to give you reasons why dance should be your chosen fitness and a few of my favorite dance moves for exercise.

Photo by Budgeron Bach on Pexels.com

Benefits of Dance

Okay so before I go into broader statistics, let me tell you about how dance has benefited me.
First of all, it made my heart stronger. No surprise there, really, since dance is an aerobic exercise, but let me give you a specific example. When I was twelve or thirteen, I had a surgery to place stents into my heart. By this time, I had been in dance classes for two or three years. A few weeks after operation, I had to do a stress test which involved walking on an inclined treadmill. It was torture, but I kept going. The end result was that I was in the top 50 percentile of kids my age without a heart condition. Those results were not due to the just-placed stents but to the work I had been putting in during dance classes.

Second, as I stated, it made me physically stronger. Before I began dance, I had already been involved in t-ball and martial arts, respectively. While t-ball might not have done much anyway, martial arts didn’t seem to help either. I knew self defense and I had come to realize that my legs were the strongest part of my body, but otherwise I had no strength to truly defend myself. I couldn’t even run away for long despite spending Saturday mornings walking an obstacle course. As I continued in dance, I became stronger and stronger. For the first time in my life, I could use my arms effectively. It took a few years of serious training in dance, but that was a feat previously unknown to me.

If you’re wondering how dance might benefit you, here’s some proven benefits:
*Mental
Dancing Reduces the Risk of Dementia
Dancing Creates New Neural Paths (Standord.edu)
Dancing Reduces Stress and Depression
Dancing Increases Mental Capacity

*Physical
Dancing Improves Flexibility, Strength, Balance, and Endurance
Dancing Improves Cardiovascular Health
Dancing can Improve Posture
Dancing can Aid Weight Loss

Why You Should Dance

I’ve listed the benefits, but you might need more convincing. First of all, if you’re worried about being judged for any reason, please don’t. For one, you can find a class that generally fits your needs, which means a class full of people in your age, dance level, etc. Second, if you could hear how many times we have to tell dancers of all ages to stop looking at the mirror (especially when going across the the floor) then you wouldn’t be worried one bit. If you are being judged, especially by teachers, then you are not at the right studio (and those people need to get over themselves).

Another reason you should take up dancing? Because it’s fun! Yes I said it. At the right studio, you will not find the petty competition that tv loves to portray. There may be some competition, yes, but usually (at least in my experience) the competition is amicable. There may be one dancer that may think they’re the crème de la crème, but any exceptional dancer worth their talent will help others instead of lording it over others. Honestly. I have made life long friends in dance. There’s a camaraderie amongst dancers, especially when “One more time” becomes, “Again” ten more times. (Note: One more time is always a lie.)

One final reason to start dancing: Depending on the type of dance you do, Dancing is easier on your body than other ways. Yes it is excruciating and there will be days when you will wonder if you can actually get out of bed, just like any other exercise. What I mean is you learn to protect the body and its joints from the beginning. Take Ballet for instance. One of the first moves we learn to do is a Plié. Plié is the foundation of ballet. Every jump, turn, and step begins, and ends, with a plié. Everything we learn during barre is help us properly care for our bodies as we go through Adage and Allegro. We learn how to properly position and hold our bodies, aligning them so that we can create proper lines that won’t stress the body or cause us to fall. In fact, ballet is considered the foundation of other dances simply because it teaches proper placement and use. Which is why I will always recommend starting with Ballet.

My Favorite Ballet Steps for Exercise

Plié:
I’m sure no one is surprised by this. I love doing pliés. Believe it or not, they are different than squats (which is why you have the squat and the plié squat) because they target different muscles. As one who has done countless Pliés, I thought it funny when I looked in the mirror after doing a squat challenge and finding that my thigh muscles bulged the other way than they used to. Yes I am serious.

Relevé:
These will kill your calves. Technically they can be compared to heel raises, but you go much higher in your demi-point than regular heel raises. Another fun way to do these is to add a plié in. A combination we regularly use is: Plié, roll up (go to demi point), straighten your legs, then back to start. Or the reverse of that combination. This is good for calves and ankles.

Sauté:
Jumps. I love jumps. I’m better at jumping than I am at turning, honestly. So a combination that has been engrained in me and that I do for my own workouts is a simple combination that goes through First, Second, and Fifth positions with a change between the sets of fifth position. These aren’t grande jetés or developés, just tiny jumps where all of your height and power comes from your plié and rolling through your feet. Think jumping jacks without the extra movement.

Have you ever thought of taking a dance class? What kind of dance interests you?

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