Feel Great · Fitness

Shake It Off

Dancing is arguably the most universal form of creative bodily expression. Humans as a species love to dance. Whether or not we admit it, whether or not we show it, most of us enjoy the catharsis of dancing. When we hear a song that somehow resonates with us, we can allow that resonation to pass through us and take on a physical form. Throwing caution to the wind and allowing the music to overtake us is an incomparable joy. It’s no wonder moments of dancing are incorporated into our times of celebration. We dance at parties, sporting events, and weddings; at baby showers, during holidays, and at the end of date nights. It’s a fun experience we can treasure and share with those around us.

What makes dancing even more incredible is the long list of positive effects it has on us, both physically and mentally. Here are just a few ways that dancing can improve the overall quality of your life. These benefits are sure to make you want to turn on your favorite tune, and proceed to shake it:

Dancing gets your blood pumping 

There is little doubt that dancing is a great form of exercise. For starters, dancing regularly will help improve your flexibility. It keeps your body loose and your muscles warm, so it serves as a great warm-up. Additionally, as a weight-bearing activity, dancing challenges your muscles in diverse ways while also keeping your heart-rate up. This essentially means that it is the perfect workout. When you dance, you’re burning calories, strengthening your muscles, and working your core. A “dancer’s body” is not an unattainable myth. If you dance often and supplement the exercise with a few ballet-style stretches, you will notice a desirable transformation in physique. 

It’s easy to be happy when dancing 

Pharrell wasn’t lying in his song “Happy,” because you know you’re happy if you’re clapping along to the music. Clapping, a form of dancing, is an indication of happiness and the act of clapping lets people around you know it’s time to celebrate. Dancing can express a range of emotions; however, if you’re dancing informally, it is highly unlikely that you’re doing so with negative affect. Studies also show that dancing to upbeat music can reduce symptoms of depression. It’s a great way to improve your well-being. The fun involved in shaking your groove thing is sure to put a smile on your face, and keep it there for some time after. Dance has been known to foster a positive outlook, so keep on smiling and keep on dancing. 

It takes two (or more) to tango

Dancing serves as a great social tool. It’s a large part of the reason we have dancing at our parties and night clubs. People who dance together make a positive connection that can go far beyond the dance floor, or at least until the next time they meet. It can be a bonding experience, with new and old friends alike, and helps keep the social atmosphere lively. There’s a well-studied social phenomenon that occurs when you watch others dance. It activates neurons in your brain that make you almost feel as if you are the one performing the dance moves, creating a unique kind of empathy. Dancing with friends or lovers is a great extension of your existing relationship, and will likely strengthen it. So grab a friend (or five), hit up your favorite dance spot, and let loose. Watch for all of the great potential friends around you, waiting for you to teach them how to “Dougie.”

Stress? Shake it off!

Numerous research studies have noted dance as a significant stress-reducer. When you dance, your body releases serotonin and endorphins, or in other terms, feel-good chemicals. It activates pleasure centers in your brain and significantly boosts your mood. It also reduces tension, which is a physical indicator of stress, and allows for your body to almost literally shake off negative energy. If you have a lot on your mind, dancing also helps you focus on something calming or exciting in a way that will prevent you from ruminating negatively. Instead of reaching for that glass of wine or binge-eating a pint of ice cream in times of stress, turn up a Beyoncé song and let the beat take your body to a stress-free place.

The list goes on and on 

Dancing has also been proven to be beneficial in many other areas of your life. It improves heart health, increases cognitive performance, aids in weight loss, boosts energy levels, strengthens your bones, improves coordination, speeds up your metabolism, fosters creativity – the list is endless. It is an incredible function of the human body and whether or not you believe you have rhythm, you should dance anyway! There are many reasons why everyone should find the time to get out on a dance floor and get into the groove.

By Melissa Espinal