It is wonderful that people from all ages and backgrounds can enjoy the benefits of ballroom dancing. I heard from the my students so many times that dancing changed their life the way that I have experienced it myself. I made it my personal and business goal to educate, promote and share the lifelong benefits of ballroom dancing.
I truly believe that ballroom dancing is the single best activity that any person, at any age, physical condition and point in their life can enjoy and benefit from. And it is not just me talking, there is numerous research to back it up. Unfortunately, most people are unaware of what dancing can bring into their life because we as an industry did not do a good job promoting it.
Let me ask you a question.
Who here would like to learn the Waltz?
Who is interested in learning Salsa?
Now, if I ask you.
Who would like to do something physical to improve their health?
Who here is dealing with stress that is impacting their life in a negative way ?
Who here could use more social interaction and improve their relationship?
Who here wants to strengthen their brain and strengthen their mind and fight against things such as Alzheimer's and dementia down the road?
Physical, Social, Emotional and Mental benefits of Dancing
I want to share with you how ballroom dancing can help you accomplish all of that and more. You don’t have to trust me on my word, here is the evidence.
When we think of stress, Americans are among the most stressed people in the world, with stress being one of the main factors in deteriorating health and well being for people.
2 in 3 adults (67%) say they have experienced increased stress over the course of the pandemic.
Dancing causes your body to release endorphins the happy hormone— chemicals in the brain that act as natural painkillers — and also improve the ability to sleep, which in turn reduces stress. I hear over and over from my students that the studio is their happy place.
Let’s talk about the physical benefits of dancing. How many of you had a get in shape new year resolution and abandoned as the year progresses. A study shows that only 10% of people that enroll in January become regular gym users. Why do workout programs fail? The number one reason that people quit is lack of motivation, people do not enjoy it. It becomes repetitive and boring, there is nothing inspiring to it. Moreover, in order to be effective, the program has to change every 3 weeks, otherwise the body gets used to it.
Let me tell you, in dancing, we have over 25 dances to choose from, with thousands of steps that can be performed on any type of music.
Dancing is a full-body workout that targets every muscle group and burns the same or more calories as cycling or running. When you dance, you move the body in different directions, so the wide range of motion activates small muscles and larger muscle groups. By holding positions and jumping around, dance is a strength and cardio workout.
Moreover, dancing is a low impact activity second only to swimming. What this means is that it puts less pressure on your joints, so someone with a hip replacement or with limited mobility can still benefit from physical exercise. Dancing is adaptable to any physical condition, wherever you are in life.
Let’s talk about the social benefits. We are living in a loneliness epidemic. It is scary, surveys show that 3 out of 5 Americans are reporting feeling extremely lonely and 28% of all Americans live by themselves. With the pandemic and the isolation that it brought, many people did not get into social contact with others for months. Evidence links social isolation to increased risk of death from all causes and increased morbidity across a variety of physical health outcomes.
Dancing by its nature is a social activity that involves touching and constant communication. The dance studio is a safe environment, a welcoming community where people gather to meet other people that share the same interests and bond together and interact through dance. I have witnessed the creation of many great relationships in our studio. People that dance become more confident and less anxious in their social interactions.
Thinking about romantic relationships, the statistics are not great either. 50% of all marriages end in divorce in the US. I had the chance to teach many couples, what I hear over and over again is that they wished they started this activity when they got married. What is great about ballroom dancing is that we have a female role and a male role, and they are not competing, they work together. That creates a strong bond and encourages communication because they are working on a new skill together and they have a fun date every time they come to the studio.
If we think about brain health, as we grow older, we lose some of the ability to create new connections in our brain, that is called neuroplasticity. One way to create new neural pathways is involve yourself in activities which require split-second rapid-fire decisions. In dancing you are making numerous split second decisions all the time, you adjust to the changing environment, to the partner in front of you, to the music, to the steps.
There are studies that show that dancing is the only physical activity that can help prevent dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. The 21 year study of senior citizens published in the New England Journal of Medicine led by the New York College of medicine studies what physical and cognitive activities influenced mental acuity.
They studied cognitive activities such as reading books, writing for pleasure, doing crossword puzzles, playing cards and playing musical instruments. And they studied physical activities like playing tennis or golf, swimming, bicycling, dancing, walking for exercise and doing housework.
The only physical activity to offer protection against dementia was frequent dancing.
Reading - 35% reduced risk of dementia
Bicycling and swimming - 0%
Doing crossword puzzles at least four days a week - 47%
Playing golf - 0%
Dancing frequently - 76%. That was the greatest risk reduction of any activity studied, cognitive or physical.
I dance with older people every day, I have witnessed the change it brings over time, and it brings me immense satisfaction when I hear that dancing is their best therapy.