It’s almost impossible to feel downhearted when you are shaking your booty out on a dance floor – have you ever noticed that? In fact, whether you are doing it in full public view or just twirling around the kitchen in your trackie daks, dancing is one of those truly life affirming activities; it practically dares you not to have a good time while you are in the middle of doing it.
But as well as helping you get your happy on, dancing can provide an amazing workout for your body and brain. Along with being a great all- round physical exercise, research shows dancing can help keep you mentally sharp too. During physical activity, the brain pumps out chemicals that encourage nerve cells to grow and stay fired up. In turn, the kinds of dance that require us to learn and memorise steps and sequences give our brains a good run for their money. And you know what they say – use it or lose it!
Look, we’re not talking about joining the Royal Ballet. But if you want to shake up your same old fitness routine, or start one from scratch, dancing could be just the ticket. There are a gazillion different styles, which means there is one that’s perfect for you no matter your age, size or ability. You can do it alone, with lovers, friends or your children. And since the language of dance is universal, you can even do it with complete strangers in a strange land if the fancy strikes. Everyone everywhere speaks fluent dance. So yes, those two left feet? No problem.
Which way to boogie?
So many ways. The world is your oyster when it comes to choice. Check out the following list, see what appeals and try it on for size. Heck, try them all on for size! Most dance styles have their own sub- categories with variations on themes, sometimes with regional twists. To find something near you, check the Yellow Pages or search Google for local dance organisations. Community notice boards, your local paper and fitness centres are also good bets, and keep an ear out for word-of-mouth recommendations.
• Latin American (rumba, samba, salsa, merengue, flamenco)
• Belly dancing
• Square dancing
• Line dancing
• Swing (jive, modern jive, jitterbug) n Hip hop
• Jazz, tap, ballet
At the gym or studio
• Zumba: a popular fitness program that takes its inspiration from Latin American dance. With classes offered at health clubs everywhere, Zumba is crazy fun and a great workout!
• Pole dancing: yep, you read that right. Not just for ‘exotic’ dancers, pole dancing studios are springing up everywhere. It’s loads of fun, as well as providing a serious strength and toning workout.
• Nia: relatively new to Australia but now catching on fast, Nia is a little bit like yoga set to a funky beat. It’s a full cardio and toning program to suit all ages, shapes and sizes, with a special focus on the connection between mind, body and spirit.
The benefits of the boogie
Kicks blue moods to the kerb: moving your body to music you love is a 100 per cent drug-free way to combat low-level depression. Think of those happy endorphins kicking in while you’re kicking up your heels.
Eliminates stress and tension: exercise is a known remedy for both! If your exercise also happens to be something fun that you love, so much the better.
Builds your bones: as we age, our bones need extra TLC. Weight-bearing and resistance exercise not only helps to keep them strong, but can keep osteoporosis at bay. Strong bones means less chance of falls and fractures, which, as you might expect, can really mess with your quality of life.
Improves posture: not to mention stamina, flexibility and balance. Enough said.
Helps heart health: it’s kind of important to keep your ticker in good nick, and regular exercise can help that along nicely.
Sheds unwanted kilos: slimming down to a more ideal weight means less risk of weight-related conditions like heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes and some forms of cancer.
Builds confidence: grow your self-esteem and enjoy an opportunity to meet new friends. Remember, social and emotional health is just as important to wellbeing as physical fitness.