Dancing your way to fitness in 2023

Dance is exercise, so the physical benefits of dancing will be similar to those of other cardio activities.  PHOTO/COURTESY 

What you need to know:

  • This year, instead of labouring your way through another run or forcing yourself through another class at the gym, consider dancing your way to better health.

Have you ever imagined achieving your fitness goals in a fun way? Dancing is not only fun and enjoyable but is also associated with a number of health benefits. You can dance as a part of your overall health and wellness routine. The constant movement is not only good for your physical health but also for your mental wellbeing.

Dance, as defined by Judith R Mackrell, a dance critic, is the movement of the body in a rhythmic way, usually to music and within a given space, to express an idea or emotion, release energy, or simply take delight in the movement itself. 

When you dance, you experience an increase in heart rate, eye-hand coordination, deep breathing, and joint rotations. Body systems such as the nervous system (involves brain), circulatory system (involves heart), respiratory system (involves lungs), skeletal system (especially the joints), and muscular system (the muscles) are exercised.

Weight loss and heart health
Since dancing requires a lot of movement and good posture, it offers one better coordination than if someone was cycling or just walking, according to Doreen Nakuttana, a dance instructor at Sukuma Dance Class in Kampala. 

“Dance improves mobility and flexibility of the whole body since every joint gets to move. It is also beneficial for the elderly because it improves balance, thereby preventing falls which are common at this age,” she says.
For teenagers, youth and adults, the faster you dance, the more the benefits. Fast movements improve breathing with a faster heartbeat which in turn strengthens the heart and improves your quality of life. 

According to Ivan Philip Baguma, a dietitian at Nella Organics, dancing also increases physical performance and increases energy levels. The more the movements, the higher the number of calories and, therefore, the more weight one loses as they dance. 

“Your increased level of activity can help you achieve or maintain an ideal weight, prevent illnesses such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and also reduce the risk of weak bones and stiff joints. Dancing is not only fun but is also an important factor in the prevention, treatment, and management of several ailments,” he says.

You can develop muscle tone and strength, endurance and motor fitness, boost your aerobic fitness, better your coordination, agility, and flexibility through dance. When you are fit, you will have the endurance to continue dancing.

Mental health benefits

Since dancing boosts one’s memory, it can delay the onset of dementia and other memory problems. Aerobic dance exercises can reverse memory loss since the person takes time to remember the steps and challenges the brain in the process.

Some people use dance as a way of expressing emotions according to Nakuttana and through it, they are able to release stress.

“Dance, accompanied by music increases the serotonin hormone which is responsible for improving your mood which in the long run reduces stress. Also, people who dance as part of their lifestyle have lower chances of being depressed,” she says. 

Did you know that watching people dance can also be beneficial to your health? Studies have discovered that both your brain and muscles respond to watching people dance.

Baguma remarks that carbohydrates are a dancer’s best source of energy. These are abundant in plant-based foods such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds which are particularly high in energising nutrients such as iron, zinc, and vitamin B12. 

“Consider regular intake of fresh unstrained smoothies which are made up of 80 percent vegetables and 20 percent fruits for taste and energy. You can add toppings such as nuts and seeds. Avocado and banana are great examples of natural fruit sugar healthy energisers,” Baguma says.

Some of the top nutrients that are essential for dancers to stay healthy include essential fatty acids, antioxidants, vitamins A, C, E, and minerals such as calcium and magnesium. If you are intentional about dancing and you need supplementation, superfood blends such as the body builder (organic cacao, hemp protein, bIack maca, pea protein), super berry antioxidant blend (Açaí berry, Aronia berry, wild blueberry, amla berry, goji berry, shisandra berry, maca, elderberry, rosehip), brain booster (Ashwagandha, Cacao, Maca, Lion’s mane mushroom, Cordyceps mushroom, Rhodiola roses, Mucuna, Ginkgo biloba, Gotu Kola) and five mushroom blend(Chaga, Lion’s mane, Cordyceps, Turkey Tail, Reishi). Pumpkin and hemp seeds can also be helpful, especially after extreme training and performing. To excel in dance, you will require superior nutrition.

The benefits of superior nutrition are numerous. Constant training takes a toll on muscles, joints, and bones and this type of nutrition can quicken your recovery from strain, and grow your lean muscle.

Anyone can dance
Dance is such a diverse art form, that there is a section of it for everyone. Whether you are more into ballroom dancing, ballet, hip hop, or even just want to freestyle it and do you own thing, there is something for everyone.

You can dance anywhere, have a lot of fun, and work out at the same time.