The secret to burning calories - get dancing

It’s time to shake your booty, regardless of whether you are a toddler or a pensioner

No one is too young or too old to dance – as long as you are able to move, everyone can get involved. Photograph: iStockphoto

No one is too young or too old to dance – as long as you are able to move, everyone can get involved. Photograph: iStockphoto

 

David Bowie was on to something when he told us to put on our “red shoes and dance the blues” because according to research dancing is a more efficient way to lose weight than many other forms of exercise

A recent study from the University of Brighton found that a 30-minute dance class burns more calories than running, swimming or cycling.

And if that wasn’t incentive enough to let your hair down, it is also beneficial for mental wellbeing.

“Dance not only appears to increase positive and reduce negative emotions, which are typical effects of exercise, but we also found that dancing actually reduced feelings of fatigue too,” says researcher Dr Nick Smeeton.

Not surprisingly, Philippa Donnellan, broadreach director of CoisCeim dance school, agrees and says there are many benefits to be derived from the different forms of movement.

“Dance gives you so much – better muscular tone and fitness, joint flexibility and bodily strength, improved coordination and physical control,” she says. “It is a very holistic form of physical activity in that it can include aerobic, stretch and weight bearing exercises which require the mind and body to work together.

“And in terms of health and wellbeing it gives you . . . the opportunity to meet people, to be creative and expressive to music, to feel relaxed and gain a spontaneous sense of enjoyment, fun, laughter, energy – the list just goes on.”

The director of the dance school says no one is too young or too old to dance – as long as you are able to move, everyone can get involved.

Different styles

“I believe there is no one age group which loves dancing more than others,” she says. “Different music, styles and places to dance might affect people’s interest, but not age.”

Loretta Yurik is the co-artistic director of Dance Theatre Ireland. She stresses the benefits of dancing for older people.

“Dancing offers low level resistance training; it is a means of aerobic exercise, great for balance, strength and gait and also helps reduce the risk of falls,” she says. “Research has also shown that it helps people with arthritis, Parkinson’s disease and depression and also reduces the risk of dementia.

Loretta and her colleagues recently set up a dance programme for seniors which is proving not only beneficial to health but also very popular.

“The Well-Dance for Seniors classes started at DTI at the suggestion of Dr Fran Hegarty of St James Hospital who observed the Falls Unit’s treatment of seniors,” she says. “Trinity College OT has subsequently begun a study of the programme itself as has found that participants had increased connectivity and mobility.”

Toddlers

But it’s not just elderly people who reap the rewards from dancing. A new study in the UK has shown that nine out of 10 toddlers do not get enough exercise. A survey from the British Heart Foundation has revealed that just 9 per cent of children between the ages of two and four are getting the required amount of physical activity each day.

It is recommended that in order to maintain a healthy weight and development, children of this age should move for three hours per day. And while many parents cite bad weather or lack of time as the reasons why their toddler is not getting sufficient exercise, dancing, whether at home or at an organised class, will help them to move more and bring some extra fun into their lives.

“Dancing is a great way to keep fit and being in a class environment is a fun way for children to socialise – we run an introduction to Irish dance twice a week which is great for keeping little dancers active and their hearts healthy.

Dr David Carey, director of psychology at City Colleges, says it is not surprising that so many people are turning to dance as a means of keeping fit in body and mind.

“There is a mounting body of evidence which shows that physical exercise is as effective in reducing stress, anxiety and depression as medication. And what sort of exercise is best? The answer is simple: the form of exercise you enjoy most is the best. Dance is a wonderful form of exercise as music by-passes the thinking parts of the brain and goes right to the emotional brain centres.”

The psychologist says along with the relaxing element to dancing, the social side is just as important. “For older people, who often are marginalised in society, there is no better form of release from worry and stress than dancing and interacting with other. When we dance we move our bodies in a step-wise sequence and it is naturally calming. We dance in our feet, not in our heads.

“So I would encourage people to get out and shake their booty. It’s good for the body, the mind and the spirit. We were born to dance so just do it.”

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