If you ever watch “Dancing with the Stars,” you may notice that partner dancing is making a comeback and that it seems rather … athletic. Could a night on the dance floor pass for exercise? Absolutely!
Although Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers made it look effortless, ballroom dancing—also called partner or social dancing—can be vigorous exercise that burns about 300 calories an hour. Physical benefits include improved cardiovascular conditioning and stamina, stronger muscles, a better sense of balance and more fluid and flexible body movements. In addition, dancing to music and its rhythms aids stress relief and sleep.
Don’t worry if you think you have two left feet and no rhythm. Anyone can learn to dance. First, find a class. Many dance studios, community centers or YMCAs offer group lessons for beginners. Look for a local chapter of USA Dance (www.usadance.org), which holds frequent social dances that begin with a one-hour dance lesson.
Many beginner classes don’t require a partner and welcome singles. Participants are paired up and switched periodically. If you already have a partner, learning to dance together can add a new dimension to your relationship. Group classes may be less intimidating and offer an opportunity to meet and dance with other beginners. Or, you may opt to try a few private lessons before joining a group session.
Classes typically focus on steps and patterns, and you’ll likely begin learning simple waltzes, fox-trots and cha-chas. As you progress, you’ll learn more complicated routines. Be sure to ask about proper attire. Most classes suggest wearing comfortable street clothes or exercise gear such as a T-shirt and leggings or yoga pants. Wear shoes with a flexible sole.
If you’re looking for a physical activity that will get your heart rate up and be fun, learning to tango may be just your style. Get on your dancing shoes and give it a whirl.