Note: I’ve been listening to great music while writing this article. I’ve embedded some links so you can share the love 💛.
Bored with your usual exercise program? Why not follow David Bowie’s advice and “put on your red shoes and dance the blues”?
Dancing is a fun, expressive and social form of exercise. It’s also a great way to meet new people.
There are many dance styles to try – from salsa to hip hop, ballroom or belly dancing. Or you can shake your tail feather around the house when a great song comes on the radio.
If you’re like me, the idea of dancing, especially in public, is terrifying. I’m uncoordinated, clumsy and have never felt comfortable or natural moving to music. My partner is changing that, one ‘box step’ at a time. Not the unco, clumsy part – he’s not a miracle worker 😂. But becoming more comfortable just dancing. You see, he’ll literally dance at the drop of a hat. At home, in his coffee shop, in the supermarket. It makes him happy.
And when he’s happy, I want to join in on that happiness.
So that’s a key reason to dance – happiness 😊.
It’s also a very social activity. Joining a dance class or going to clubs is an opportunity for you and your friends to have a fun, physical outing. And you may make new friends. What’s not to love about that? 💜
Gonna make you sweat (Everybody dance now): Dancing is exercise
The Australian physical activity guidelines recommend that adults be active most days of the week, preferably every day.
That means that each week, adults should do either:
- 2.5 to 5 hours of moderate intensity physical activity – e.g. a brisk walk, golf, mowing the lawn or swimming. Moderate intensity means you can talk comfortably but not sing.
- 1.25 to 2.5 hours of vigorous intensity physical activity – e.g. jogging, aerobics, fast cycling, soccer or netball. Vigorous intensity means you can only say a few words without gasping for breath.
- an equivalent combination of moderate and vigorous activities. (1)
So dancing – at a moderate or vigorous intensity – is a fun and creative way to contribute to your weekly dose of exercise.
Everybody dance: Other health benefits
Chic put it so well in their song, “Dancing helps relieve the pain, soothes your mind, makes you happy again. Listen to those dancing feet. Close your eyes and let go.“ But don’t just take the word of those disco legends… dancing:
- improves the health of your heart and lungs
- improves circulation of blood and synovial fluid through joints
- relieves pain and stiffness
- reduces fatigue
- helps you sleep better
- improves strength, endurance and stamina
- improves balance, coordination and flexibility
- helps keep bones strong and prevent falls
- lowers stress levels and improves your mood
- helps you maintain a healthy body weight or lose weight when combined with a weight-loss eating plan
- builds self-confidence
- improves brain health and cognitive functions
- nurtures your creative side and allows you to express yourself
- improves overall health and fitness.
Dance, dance: Getting started
OK, if I’ve sold you on dancing, it’s time to get started. And a good way to do that is to think about the different dancing styles and ask yourself…
- What style appeals to me?
- What do I want to get out of dancing? For example, do I want to:
- meet new people?
- get fit?
- improve my balance and coordination?
- get involved in competitions?
- Do I want to dance on my own or with a partner?
Thinking about these things can help you choose the style that best meets your needs.
You also need to be conscious of the physical demands of the dance style. For example, if there’s a lot of jumping or moves that put significant pressure on joints, it may not be suitable if you have arthritis in your hips, knees or feet. That being said, there are so many styles to choose from, including:
- Ballroom – e.g. waltz, foxtrot
- Belly dancing
- Hip hop
- La bomba
- Line dancing
- Pole dancing
- Square dancing
- Wheelchair dancing.
Once you’ve picked a style, as you would before starting any new exercise program, you need to consider your fitness level and other health issues. If it’s been a while since you’ve been active, talk with your doctor before you start.
Flashdance: What to wear?
Your clothing needs to be comfortable and allow you to move freely. But you don’t want any trailing sleeves and long skirts. They’ll be a trip hazard. So leave your inner Stevie Nicks at home, at least until you’re a more proficient dancer 😁.
As far as shoes go, some dance styles, like tap, require special shoes. But for the most part, when starting out, you can generally wear shoes you already have. Just make sure they’re flexible, comfortable and provide good support. And it’s best to start in low shoes that allow you to move smoothly and safely across the floor.
Other tips for a safe(ty) dance
Dancing is exercise, so start slowly and learn good technique. You should also:
- Consider getting family or friends involved. It’s fun to explore new experiences, like dance classes or groups with others, especially if you’re a little nervous or find it difficult to get motivated on your own.
- Warm up before you start. Don’t just ‘lose yourself to dance’. Give your body time to loosen up and get ready for some exertion.
- Drink enough water and stay hydrated – before, during and after dancing.
- Take breaks, and rest when you need to. It’s easy to get caught up and overdo it, especially when you’re having a good time. So listen to your body and take regular breaks.
- If you feel unusual pain, stop that move or dance sequence, and get advice from your dance instructor, physiotherapist or exercise physiologist. You may be overextending a joint or moving in a way that’s not great for your musculoskeletal condition. So safety first.
- Cool down when you finish.
- Have a wonderful time!
Dance hall days: Finding a place to dance
- Start at home if you’re nervous about going public with your dance moves. Put some music on, and go for it. Make sure you have plenty of space and there are no slip or trip hazards (e.g. rugs, pets). Other safety issues such as talking with your doc, wearing appropriate clothing and footwear, warming up, cooling down and hydrating still apply.
- Check out some online groups and classes. There’s so much available online. This has been a positive of the pandemic – an enormous growth in good online resources. You’re sure to find something that suits you. If you’re looking for inspiration, YouTube and TikTok have some great dance content. Just watch them carefully and evaluate them as you would any other online health content. Our article Online exercise – look before you leap provides a list of things to consider before starting any online exercise (including dance).
- Visit websites of local community houses and clubs as they often provide dance classes as part of their exercise offerings.
- Dance schools and studios often provide more formal dance training. This may be of particular interest if you want to perfect your dance technique, enter competitions or learn a style unavailable in your local community.
- Hit a club or pub. And if you’re groaning about a late night (which I do regularly), many venues have afternoon music and dance sessions or dinner dances. You just have to keep an eye on local venues.
- No Lights, No Lycra. This a place for people to come and dance freely in a friendly, non-threatening, drug and alcohol-free atmosphere. It happens in a dimly lit room with the lights low so people can truly dance without worrying about what they look like. No Lights, No Lycra events happen all over the world. You can find your closest venue here.
Contact our free national Help Line
Call our nurses if you have questions about managing your pain, musculoskeletal condition, treatment options, mental health issues, telehealth, or accessing services. They’re available weekdays between 9am-5pm on 1800 263 265; email (email@example.com) or via Messenger.
More to explore
- Dance – health benefits
Better Health Channel
- Dance-based fitness classes
- Dancing – preventing injury
Better Health Channel
- Dancing when you have arthritis
- How is it possible to be a dancer with arthritis? Chloe’s story
- Let’s dance! How dance classes can lift your mood and help boost your social life
More dance tunes to get you in the mood!
These songs will have you cutting the sleeves off your jumpers to make leg warmers (à la Flashdance) in no time 😅.
- Dance hall days – Wang Chung
- Dance monkey – Tones and I
- Dance, dance – Fall Out Boy
- Dancing in the dark – Bruce Springsteen
- Dancing queen – ABBA
- Everybody dance – Chic
- Flashdance (What a feeling) – Irene Cara
- Gonna make you sweat (Everybody dance now) – C&C Music Factory
- Just dance – Lady Gaga
- Let’s dance – David Bowie
- Lose Yourself to Dance – Daft Punk
- Neutron dance – The Pointer Sisters
- Save the last dance – Michael Bublé
- Shake a tail feather – The Blues Brothers & Ray Charles
- Shut up and dance – Walk the Moon
- The safety dance – Men Without Hats
- You should be dancing – Bee Gees
- Australian Government, Department of Health and Aged Care. Physical activity guidelines: For adults (18-64 years)