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Dance Fever

Dancing, like walking or cycling, is a great no-cost or low-cost way to build aerobic fitness, improve balance and strengthen your muscles at any age.

from HealthyWomen's e-newsletter, HealthyWomen Take 10

If dancing is a rare activity for you, one you take part in only at the occasional wedding reception (if then!), then it's time to get in touch with your inner Debbie Allen.

Dancing, like walking or cycling, is a great no-cost or low-cost way to build aerobic fitness, improve balance and strengthen your muscles at any age. And you don't have to wait for a special event or find a partner to enjoy dance's benefits.

You can even pick dance as your main physical activity. Research presented at the 2009 annual meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine showed that dancing gives even formerly inactive people a good workout. Beginners in a tango class logged about 20 percent of their recommended daily steps by participating in the twice-a-week program.

The fun factor of dancing helps encourage you to stick with the activity. Many people find dancing more enjoyable than spending time in a gym on traditional exercise equipment. Dance classes provide social connections that help improve mood and build feelings of well-being. There are dance groups for all activity levels—from energetic salsa to walk-speed square dancing.

Groups specializing in line dancing are especially good if you don't have a regular dance partner, but many classes are set up to make sure that everyone dances, regardless of whether you come alone or not.

To get started with dancing for fitness:

  • Borrow dance DVDs from your local library and try them at home.
  • Participate in a community dance class through your local adult school or recreation center.
  • Alternate dance sessions with walks or jogs you may already be taking.
  • Wear comfortable shoes and loose clothing.
  • Bring water and a face towel for comfort.

And get ready to smile. Dancing increases social contact, improves self-esteem and encourages new friendships.

References

Bremer Z. "Dance as a Form of Exercise." British Journal of General Practice. 2007;57(535):166.
Verghese J. "Cognitive and Mobility Profile of Older Social Dancers." Journal of the American Geriatric Society. 2006;54(8):1241-4.

American College of Sports Medicine. "Salsa or Tango Toward Health." Accessed May 29, 2009.

© HealthyWomen. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission from HealthyWomen. 1-877-986-9472 (tollfree). On the Web at: www.HealthyWomen.org.