an elderly couple dancingWho doesn’t love to dance?

Even those of us with “two left feet” like to tear up the dance floor every once in a while. However, if you dance regularly, it can not only be fun, but also great for your health. Here’s some reasons why you shouldn’t be a wallflower:

1. You have an excuse to listen to all of your favorite music! In the January, 2013 issue of Psychology Today, music has a powerful effect on exercisers. It delays fatigue, alleviates soreness, and elevates the mood. Keeping pace with musical rhythms when dancing is a great way to pace yourself so that you can keep enjoying yourself. Music also motivates exercisers to return to their workouts regularly, so that keeping fit becomes a habit. Whether you like jazz, the hits of Broadway, disco, or Motown, the positive associations you have with your favorite music can help turn you from an occasional exerciser into a frequent one. Dancing might be safer for your joints than running or cycling. If you have any joint issues, like arthritis, bursitis, or osteoporosis, you might have been told by a doctor or a medical professional that repetitive movements can exacerbate your symptoms. When many of us think of cardiovascular exercise (of which everybody needs at least 30 minutes most days of the week), we think of running or cycling. However, running and cycling require very repetitive movements in the hips, knees, and ankles. Dancing gets your heart rate up, and treats your joints to a wide variety of movement patterns. The variety of movements will help to exercise your joints without irritating them.

2. Dancing is a great way to improve your balance. Balance is a skill, just like any other, and if you don’t use it, you lose it. As we get older, the risk of falling becomes very serious, and major fractures are extremely dangerous. Maybe your joints are stiffer than they used to be, or your vision is not as reliable; these are reasons to put on your dancing shoes rather than avoid them. Even if you use mobility aids like canes, walkers, rollators, or wheelchairs, dancing regularly can help you develop muscular stability and confidence on your feet.

3. Dancers typically have great memories. Not only can hearing your favorite song from your high school days bring back lots of fun memories, but remembering dance steps and patterns is a fantastic memory-builder. According to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, senior citizens who dance can stave off dementia and memory loss, because dancing builds new neural pathways in the brain. Dancing was found to protect the brain from memory loss better than reading, doing crossword puzzles, playing a musical instrument, or playing golf.

4. Dancing is a great way to socialize. Early morning responsibilities might mean that you can’t get to the nightclubs as often as you might have when you were younger, but dancing is a great excuse to spend time with other people. If you’re looking to learn some new steps, look for dance classes in local studios. Many of them have special classes for adult students. For example, Steps on Broadway offers an Absolute Beginner Series nine times a year, and you can learn everything you wanted to know about ballet, tap, ballroom dancing, salsa, and more. Some gyms, like New York Sports Club and the YMCA, offer free Zumba and Silver Sneakers dance classes to AARP members. See if your local chapter of the Knights of Columbus or Moose Lodge holds regular parties with a live band. Or, invite your friends and family over to turn the volume up on your speakers and turn your living room into a Harlem Rent Party, and dance the night away to Cab Calloway. Share your love of dancing, and everyone in your life will benefit, especially you!

What kind of dancing do you enjoy?
by Christine Washburn ACSM CPT/CIFT, M. Ed.

This blog was a contribution from Energetic Seniors! For more information about senior fitness, contact Bonita Porte at


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