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Why people should swap sneakers for dancing shoes

Champaign, IL—Ricki Lake, Kelly Osbourne, and Kirstie Alley can attest to the health benefits of dance: Each star dropped over 20 pounds while performing on Dancing with the Stars. According to Judy Wright, dance expert and author of the forthcoming Social Dance: Steps to Success (Human Kinetics, 2012), it's no surprise so many people attribute their shrinking waistlines to dance. “Dance provides a serious workout and increases muscle tone, flexibility, and cardiorespiratory endurance,” says Wright. “For many dancers, social dancing is becoming the preferred way to be more active and improve fitness while having fun.”

According to Wright, dance offers an alternative way to work out and have fun at the same time. “The low-impact aerobic workout of dancing continuously is a major benefit of partner dancing,” Wright explains. “It is a great way to blend exercise and recreation because you can raise your heart rate to 70 percent of its maximum, which boosts stamina safely.”

To achieve the aerobic benefit of dance, participants must gradually increase the amount of time spent continuously dancing. “Start by dancing the length of one song, and gradually add more time until you are dancing 15 to 60 minutes nonstop, three times per week,” says Wright.  

In addition to physical benefits, dance helps keep the mind active. A 2003 study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that ballroom dancing at least twice a week makes people less likely to develop dementia. “Social dance requires that you focus, so your mind tends to wander less,” Wright says. “For example, to keep time, you mentally count the beats of the music as you move your feet in rhythmic ways. You also focus on memorizing the basic steps, learning variations, and repeating combinations or longer sequences using both short-term and long-term memory.”

Social Dance: Steps to Success offers a complete instructional package for merengue, four-count swing and hustle, waltz, six-count swing, foxtrot, polka, cha-cha, rumba, tango, and salsa and mambo. The book includes a DVD with instructional clips and music tracks for effective practice, making the guide ideal for anyone wishing to perfect their moves on the dance floor. 

For more information, see Social Dance.