Dancing for Health

dancing for health

With soaring levels of stress-related illness in the UK (according to the Labour Force survey an estimated 442, 000 individuals in Britain in 2007/2008 alone felt they were experiencing illness as a result of work related stress) the drive to adopt ways of reducing angst and enhancing quality of life is ever increasing.

Physical Health Benefits of Dance

The benefits of dance are wide ranging and the results may be profound.

Dance is a form of exercise and first and foremost this makes it highly effective in strengthening one’s defences against the harmful effects of stress and building general resilience. Cardiovascular activity increases stamina and endurance and improves the health of the heart and the lungs. Physiologically we adapt to increases in heart rate, blood pressure and stress hormones during exertion and become conditioned to react more calmly when such changes are brought about by mental stress. Additional physical benefits include improvements in flexibility, joint mobility, muscle strength, co-ordination and weight management amongst many others.

Psychological and Social Benefits of Dance

Exercise, and particularly dance, focuses the mind, offers distraction from stressful life circumstances and prevailing worries, provides an outlet for venting frustration and an avenue for creative expression and imaginative exploration. Positive effects may include: improving mood and functional mental health, inducing feelings of calm, satisfaction and euphoria and increasing self-esteem and self-confidence. Socially, classes provide an environment in which trusting and open relationships can flourish.

Finding the Right Dance Class for You

These days there may be so many different classes on offer that the choice can be overwhelming. To find the right class for you it’s worth asking yourself the following questions:

  • Would you rather dance with a partner, or alone? Ballet, Contemporary, Hip Hop, Street dance and Flamenco styles focus on solo work. Salsa, Tango and Ballroom tend to be partnered dances.
  • What are your main motivations to dance? Do you hope to improve strength and flexibility, socialise, or have a hardcore aerobic workout?
  • What kind of music motivates you the most? Choosing a class where you really enjoy the music makes it far more likely that you’ll keep it up.
  • Would you prefer to attend classes run on a “drop-in” basis, or follow a course that progresses?
  • How much time and money can you set aside for classes and any additional costs such as clothes, shoes and travel?
  • What time can you keep free? Many places will offer morning, afternoon or evening classes? Would you prefer to do it during the week or at the weekend?

Be prepared to search the internet, scour the local telephone directories and quiz friends about nearby classes and once you have narrowed the options down:

  • Contact teachers, find out their credentials and be inquisitive. A good teacher will have a professional manner, be experienced and will convey enthusiasm about their particular style. Find out the cost of lessons, how many hours practice you should commit to per week and what clothes, shoes and accessories will be needed.
  • Go and observe classes or even try them out before you make your final decision. Most instructors are absolutely fine with this. You should find the studio warm and clean, with suitable sprung or semi-sprung flooring to reduce the impact when jumping or stamping.

Useful Contacts

For further help contact your nearest National Dance Agency, the Arts/Dance Development Officer at the local Council or the Council for Dance Education and Training. Dance UK is also a source of useful information on a whole range of dance-related topics.

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