Getting Started With Dancing (For Fitness!)

While dancing might seem too fun to qualify as an actual workout, it’s actually an incredible aerobic exercise that gets your entire body moving and burns loads of calories.

Since it encompasses so many different styles and techniques, dancing is also easily adaptable to your level of fitness or enthusiasm.

When it comes to dancing for fitness, there is no end to the styles of dance you can do, and whatever style you choose, it will make you a stronger, more flexible person.

Plus, it’s fun… so there’s that.

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What is dancing for fitness?

Dancing for fitness is doing any type of dance at a level that gets your heart rate up and makes your muscles really work, which includes most forms of dance from ballet to freestyle to pole dancing.

If you’re moving to the music and working up a sweat, you’re dabbling in fitness dancing, even if you’re just getting down at your cousin’s wedding.

There are, however, some types of dance that have been modified into high-intensity fitness routines.

Popular fitness dance styles include:

  • Zumba (Latin dance-based)
  • Barre (ballet-based)
  • Belly Dancing
  • Pole Dancing
  • Hip Hop
  • Aerial Silks (which combines aerial gymnastics with dance)

Is dancing a sport?

Dance isn’t typically viewed under the sporting lens.

Instead, it’s viewed as an art form, likely due to its close association with other art forms like music and theater.

That said, dance certainly has all the markings of a sport.

It’s a physically-demanding activity which requires specific intricate skill and has aerobic, cardio, and muscle-strengthening components.

There are also sports which incorporate dance, such as women’s gymnastics and figure skating, and dance that is trying to get more attention as a sport, namely Dancesport (competitive ballroom dancing).

So, while society has largely put dance into the “art” box, it is definitely a sport as far as its physical demands and is trying hard to be recognized as one.

Benefits of Dancing

The benefits of dance are well-documented for those who develop (and stick to) a routine.

Some benefits of dance include:

  • Improved strength
  • Improved bone health
  • Improved mobility
  • Improved flexibility
  • Improved agility
  • Improved balance and coordination
  • Improved endurance
  • Improved heart health (including lower blood pressure)
  • Improved respiratory rates
  • Improved sleep
  • Enhanced immune response
  • Weight loss
  • Reduced inflammation
  • Pain relief, especially muscle and joint paint, which improves conditions such as:
    • Arthritis
    • Chronic back pain
    • Fibromyalgia
    • Menstrual pain
    • Menopause
  • Nerve stimulation, especially the vagus nerve, which can help:
    • Improve overall mental function
    • Reduce stress
    • Reduce anxiety
    • Reduce depression
    • Improve overall mental health
  • Social engagement (for those who take a class or work with a partner), which can:
    • Boost self-esteem
    • Enhance social skills
    • Reduce risk of depression

The strength, balance, and agility developed through dance have also been shown to reduce falls in older people.

And you don’t have to dance specifically for fitness to get those benefits.

Social dancing has shown many of the same advantages.

Is dance hard?

Dancing, at its most basic level, is a very natural human movement, but that doesn’t mean it comes naturally to everyone.

You do have to have some sense of rhythm and timing to do it well.

In more structured forms of dance, dancing is considerably more difficult, requiring (sometimes incredible amounts of) flexibility, balance, strength, and endurance.

And some forms of dance are harder than others.

The good thing about dance is that you can do it without any of those structured moves and at your own pace.

If you’re moving your body to the music, you’re dancing.

And any dancing you do is good for you both physically and mentally.

You may not be that good at it, but who cares?

Easiest Dance Form to Learn

If you do want to get into structured dance, but feel a little rhythm-deprived, some types of dance are easier to learn than others.

Line dancing, for example, uses a repetitive (often simple) set of moves continuously throughout a song.

There is a lot of stepping and some stomping, but little that requires excessive flexibility.

Ballroom dancing requires a little more flexibility, but there are still simple dances to be found.

The waltz is a fairly slow dance that uses only four moves, while other ballroom dances, like the foxtrot and cha cha, are a bit faster, but still made up of only a few basic steps.

Of all the simple styles of dance, though, freestyle is certainly the simplest.

Freestyle encompasses any move you do that is not structured.

The dancing you do when your favorite jam comes on the Muzak? That’s freestyle.

So, while many dances are complicated and difficult to learn, you do not have to make dancing difficult.

All you have to do is get up when the music comes on and move your booty. (Though, for a more intense workout, it does help to move your feet too.)

How often can I dance?

Unless you are doing new, intense moves, like lifts or leaps, you can dance every day.

In fact, dancing every day is a good way to ensure you maintain your limberness and condition your body for further advancement.

However, as always, be conscious of how you feel.

Certain dance moves require a good bit of stretch and power, and these moves can pull at joints and fatigue muscles.

If you are sore after a day of dancing, assess the situation.

  • Are you just a little sore or are you a lot sore?
  • Does the pain in a muscle or joint get worse when you move?
  • Do you feel fatigued or like you’re moving slower than you were yesterday?

If you feel very sore, something doesn’t feel quite right, or you’re overly tired, it’s always a good idea to take a break.

Overworking your body when it needs to rest or heal is a recipe for injury.

Is dancing good exercise?

Dancing isn’t just good exercise, it’s incredible exercise, and the best part is you don’t need a structured dance routine or fitness dance class to reap the benefits.

When you’re on your feet moving your upper and lower body, you are working most of your muscles and greatly increasing calorie-burn.

The faster you move, the harder your muscles work and the more calories you burn, making it easy to amp up your workout as you go along.

Does dancing help you lose weight?

Yes. At a fast pace, dancing is a calorie-incinerator that melts away the pounds.

But don’t worry if you can’t dance that fast. Any dancing you do – slow, fast, solo, or partnered – will increase your calorie expenditure if you do it instead of sitting still.

Calories Burned Dancing

With so many different styles and speeds of dance, it’s no surprise there is a wide range of calories you can burn while dancing.

Not only does your weight factor in (as with any exercise), so does dance style, speed, and how much oomph you put into it.

The Compendium of Physical Activities lists a range for dance from 3.0 METs (metabolic equivalent) for slow ballroom dances to over 11.0 METs for competitive dance.

High-impact aerobic dance comes in at just over 7.0 METs, which is what most people aim for when dancing for fitness.

At this 7.0-MET level, a 150-pound person will burn over 8 cal./min. or 500 cal./hour, the equivalent of a fast jog.

Does dancing build muscle?

As with other exercises that use only your bodyweight as resistance, dance is more of a muscle toner/strengthener than a builder.

While your muscles will grow stronger and become more visible due to weight and fat loss, they are unlikely to get bigger in size through dance alone.

Does dancing burn fat?

Dancing will tone your muscles, which can increase fat-burn. It’s also a full-body exercise, which burns more fat than exercises that only work single muscle groups.

But speed and power is of the essence.

A quicker, more powerful set of moves will burn fat better than slower, lower-intensity moves.

Putting your body to work in a demanding way is how you make it bypass those carbs and dig into fat stores.

So, if your goal is fat loss make sure you’re incorporating some speedy bursts and high-intensity stretches into your dance routine.

Is dancing enough exercise?

Yes, dancing is enough exercise.

As a full-body workout that takes intense cardio and aerobic effort and strengthens muscles as well, dancing is one of only a handful of exercises that provides enough exercise all on its own.

Unless you are trying to actively build muscle, dancing can serve as your entire fitness routine.

Though, some muscle-building can make certain steps easier and sturdier and help you perform weight-bearing moves, like lifts, dips, and drops.

How many minutes should I dance per day?

Dancing is like any cardio and aerobic exercise.

If you’re doing it daily (or at least five days per week) at a moderate pace, as little as 30 min./day is enough to reap the benefits.

Doing it longer will increase those benefits, but only up to a point.

If you are dancing to a point of exhaustion, you are increasing your risk of injury and making your body work overtime to heal.

How much time you can safely spend exercising is an individual thing, and depends on factors such as age, health, and physical limitations, like existing injuries.

While it’s generally thought up to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise (150 minutes of high-intensity exercise) each week is safe for most people, it may not be right for you.

That’s why it’s essential to pay attention to your body and make sure you’re not overdoing it.

For the sake of getting started with dancing for fitness, assume 30 minutes five days per week is safe and effective and anything beyond that is a bonus.

Learn to Dance

Well, are you ready to learn to dance?

You’ve got a couple of main options:

  1. You can take dance classes (ideal if you want to learn to ballroom dance and don’t have a partner, or prefer the motivation of a group) or individual lessons.
  2. You can learn at home (ideal if you prefer to do your sweating and make your goof-ups without an audience).

Dance-Specific Dance Classes

If you want real, solid dance instruction (and expert guidance when you go wrong), taking a dance class is the best way to get it.

Dance studios offer classes in multiple disciplines, starting with the basics, which makes it easy to get started no matter which dance you’re interested in learning.

You can also take individual lessons with a dance instructor (at a much steeper cost) if you want more dedicated attention.

Fitness-Specific Dance Classes

If you are interested in dance solely for its fitness aspects, you may prefer a dance studio geared toward fitness dancing, such as a Barre or pole fitness studio.

These types of studios typically offer classes beyond their specialties and classes are choreographed specifically to provide good workouts.

But you don’t need a dance-specific studio to get a good dance workout.

Fitness dance classes are also offered by most gyms, including YMCAs.

Classes you’re mostly likely to find at gyms include Zumba and aerobic dance, but you’ll likely find additional fitness dance classes as well, such as belly dancing or hula.

The types of fitness dance classes offered by gyms is usually dependent on current staff and their specialties, but you can can almost always find one or two dance classes on their class schedules beyond the basics.

Fitness dance classes are ideal for people who dance solely for fitness because they are fast-paced, but highly accessible.

They’ll get you moving right away and don’t require learning any complicated moves.

Learn to Dance at Home

If you’re not interested in taking a dance class (either traditional or fitness), your other option for learning to dance is to practice on your own.

When dancing for fitness, you can go the fitness dancing route, seeking out fitness-specific routines, or simply try to learn more dance moves so you can dance on your own to whatever music fills your soul.

Whichever direction you choose, there are plenty of videos on YouTube that run the gamut of dance styles.

You can find some of our favorites at Dance Videos for Beginners.

To get you started, we love this guy’s very basic moves for beginners (you’ll find the first one at 1:40), which will add some simple steps to your freestyle arsenal.

Dance Equipment for Beginners

Aside from its tremendous health benefits, one of the things that makes dancing such a great fitness choice is that don’t need any equipment to get started.

It just takes some good tunes and a little floor space.

What to Wear to Dance Class (0r to Dance at Home)

While you won’t need any equipment, you may, however, want a few choice clothing pieces for dancing that are easy to move in and good for working up a sweat. (Regardless of what society implies at proms, balls, and weddings, formalwear is not ideal dancewear.)

Leggings and a t-shirt or tank top are ideal for most dance classes, fitness or otherwise.

If you get cold easily, you may also want a light fitness jacket as long as it doesn’t constrict your movement.

As for your feet, you can either wear grip socks (the floor can be slippery) or a highly flexible shoe.

Many people prefer only the socks because it makes it easier to feel the floor and bend the foot.

If you do want (or need) to wear shoes, dance sneakers are the best option for most styles of dance.

These sneakers have split soles with open centers, allowing them to provide good support while maintaining greater flexibility than traditional sneakers.

Some grip socks we like:

Some dance sneakers we like:

Fitness Through Dance

While most things that are both fun and decent workouts aren’t sufficient exercise on their own, dance is one notable exception.

Dance is a weight-bearing, full-body, often high-intensity exercise than can absolutely replace your entire fitness routine. (Unless you’re trying to bulk up, in which case you’ll need to add a little weight-resistance in somewhere.)

If you’ve been looking for an exercise that you can stand, something that doesn’t feel like work every time you get up to do it, consider putting a little rhythm into your regimen.

There’s a whole world of dance to explore, and every bit of it is does amazing things for your body.

Need some inspiration before you hit the dance floor? Check out Dance Quotes for Inspiration.

Want more yuks with your dance content? Check out Dance Puns To Rave About.

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