When was the last time you danced like no one was watching? If it’s been a while, you might want to reconsider — dancing is a great exercise to lose weight when paired with an overall healthy diet and lifestyle. You might have so much fun, that you forget you’re working out! Whether you’re dancing in your room, at a studio or out with friends — this cardiovascular activity has benefits beyond torching calories. Read on to learn more about dancing for weight loss and how to get started!
Health benefits of dancing
You don’t have to lift heavy weights, run a marathon or spend hours at the gym to reap the benefits of physical activity. Dancing is the perfect example of a low-impact exercise that can help you tone your muscles, work up a sweat and give your heart some love in a short amount of time — while having fun!
According to the National Institutes of Health, you may experience the following health benefits from dancing:1
Improved heart health
Dancing is a cardiovascular activity that gets your heart rate up and increases oxygen and blood flow throughout your body. Research shows that exercise can help improve various health markers that are beneficial for your heart such as reduced blood pressure, lower cholesterol levels and weight loss.2
Stronger muscles and bones
Bone density starts to decrease after age 50 and accelerates during menopause, according to the experts at John Hopkins Medicine.3 To help keep your muscles strong and slow your bone loss, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend aerobic and weight-bearing exercises such as dancing.4
Enhanced balance and coordination
As you age and your muscle strength naturally decreases, balance and coordination often become more difficult. But dancing can help! One study published in the Journal of Neurophysiology found that ballet dancers had better muscle control than individuals without a dance background.5 They also had improved coordination for everyday activities.
Feel like the afternoon slump hits you hard? You might want to pass on a caffeinated drink — dancing might help banish your fatigue. One study found that sedentary adults who started exercising experienced a 20 percent increase in energy levels compared to the control group who did not exercise.6
Research indicates that just 20-30 minutes of aerobic exercise is all you need to help feel more relaxed.7 In fact, the zen feeling you get post-workout can last several hours!7
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If you’ve ever experienced those feel-good endorphins after working up a sweat, you know exactly how exercise can boost your mood. And research backs it up. According to the American Psychological Association, exercise can enhance your mood short-term and may even help individuals with long-term depression.8
While one dance session won’t change your health overnight, dancing for just 30 minutes a day, a few times a week can help you meet the CDC’s recommendation of 150 minutes of moderate activity per week.9
Why dancing works for weight loss
Beyond the amazing health benefits, research also suggests that dancing is an effective weight loss strategy.
In one study, obese middle-aged women were split into two groups: an aerobic dance group and a jogging or cycling group. Both groups lost weight and body fat — and the researchers concluded that dancing is just as beneficial for weight loss as a jogging or cycling routine.10
In another study, healthy women participating in Zumba dance classes burned almost 400 calories over the duration of a 39-minute class.11 Since the American Council of Sports Medicine advises that people burn at least 300 calories per workout to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight, dancing is an excellent choice for a weight loss activity.
Dancing can be particularly effective for weight loss because it’s relatively low-cost, it’s gentle on your joints, it’s cardiovascular and muscle strengthening, and there are tons of different dance methods to choose from!
Types of dancing
Whether you like freestyle dance or something with a little more choreography, there are a variety of dance styles to choose from. Here are a few of the most popular styles that are also good for weight loss.
This type of dance is usually performed at a gym or studio, but it can easily be done at home. Typically, you will have a step platform that you can use to perform certain moves. Teachers create a choreographed set and you usually start with a few moves that build into a routine. You’ll have a blast while working up a major sweat!
Hip-hop dance has evolved over many years and is a hybrid of different styles including breaking (also known as breakdancing), locking and popping to electronic, R&B, funk or pop music.12,13 Historically, the dance was freestyle-based, but today’s modern “new style” dance integrates more choreographed moves that can be practiced in a studio or outdoors. If you’ve got rhythm and like upbeat, modern music, this style might be your favorite.
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This fast-paced Latin dance originated in Cuba and became popular in New York in the late 1950s.14 While it’s typically performed with a partner, you can still practice solo for a great workout! In fact, a “shine” is when an individual performs intricate footwork apart for their partner.14 Salsa primarily focuses on your steps — you can add your own style by moving your hips and arms to the beat of the music. Taking salsa classes with a friend or significant other is an excellent activity if you’re trying to lose weight with a partner.
Another Latin-inspired dance, Zumba has quickly grown in popularity because it’s high-energy and an excellent cardiovascular workout. Whether you take a Zumba class or try a video online, you’ll get your heart rate up with this interval dance workout.15 You’ll tone your legs, core and glutes as you groove to the music.15 If you’re just beginning a fitness routine, Zumba is a great choice because there aren’t any technical moves.
How to start a dancing routine for weight loss
First thing’s first: Make sure to consult your healthcare provider before beginning a new workout routine.
Ready to get started? Make sure you have the proper clothing and equipment (you don’t need much!):
- Comfortable shoes
- Clothing you can move freely in and sweat in
- Water bottle (don’t forget to stay hydrated!)
- Sweat towel
- If you’re following a dance routine online, you’ll need a TV or a computer
- If you’re taking a class in a studio, you’ll need to sign up prior to the class
Before you begin your dance routine, make sure to warm up with some light dynamic stretches. After the class, ensure you properly cool down to avoid injury. If your muscles are sore after a dance session, listen to your body — find out if you should workout when you’re sore.
Dance Videos, Routines and Classes
If you’re dancing at home, turn on your favorite tunes and move to the beat! You can make it up as you go, or incorporate some bodyweight movements to add in some strengthening exercises (think lunges, arm circles or jumping jacks). There is no right or wrong way to move your body!
If you’re following an instructional video, don’t be afraid to press pause to repeat the steps before moving on to the next move.
If you’ve signed up for an online class, show up 15 minutes early to meet the instructor and get acquainted with any protocol they have in place. If it’s your first class, let the teacher know so they can give you any additional tips you might need.
The bottom line
No matter which style you choose, dancing is a great activity to get moving and support your weight loss goals. With minimal equipment needed, it’s the perfect exercise for beginners. Plus, it’s fun!
So lace up your shoes, turn on some jams and start moving to the beat!
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This article is based on scientific research and/or other scientific articles and was written and reviewed by certified professionals.
Our goal at Jenny Craig is to provide the most up-to-date and objective information on health-related topics, so our readers can make informed decisions based on factual content. All articles undergo an extensive review process, and depending on the topic, are reviewed by a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) or Certified Nutritionist, to ensure accuracy.
This article contains trusted sources including scientific, peer-reviewed papers. All references are hyperlinked at the end of the article to take readers directly to the source.
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