What Effects Does Dancing Have on the Human Body?

Dancing's effects on the body are generally positive unless injury is involved. Done at a moderate or higher tempo, it usually causes a sweat and qualifies as aerobic exercise. Dancing burns calories and can positively affect weight loss. In addition, it offers the psychological benefits of socializing with others. One study even showed that elderly people who participated in dancing lowered their risk of dementia. Dance-fitness classes such as Jazzercise and Zumba offer fun ways to work out.

Aerobic Exercise

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services recommends that adults participate in two hours and 30 minutes of moderate aerobic activity such as wallking or swimming per week for optimum health benefits. Alternatively, vigorous exercise such as running should be done for at least one hour and 15 minutes per week. As a form of aerobic exercise, dancing offers cardiovascular conditioning that may lower your risk of coronary heart disease, high blood pressure and being overweight. Whether you choose to learn ballroom dancing from a qualified instructor, participate in a dance-fitness class at your local gym or dance along with a video in your living room, there are a number of ways to enjoy dance as exercise and get a good aerobic workout simultaneously.

Calories Burned

Depending on the type of dance you choose, the number of calories burned will vary. For rhythmical dances such as the foxtrot or waltz, you can burn up to 260 calories per hour if you weigh 160 lbs. More vigorous dancing styles such as the salsa can burn 500 calories in an hour's time, comparable to the calories burned from a light jog. An aerobic dance class of moderate intensity uses 442 calories per hour for a 150-lb. person, and 590 calories for someone weighing 200 lbs.

Lowered Risk of Dementia

A study published in the June 2003 issue of "The New England Journal of Medicine" found that when elderly people participated in leisure activities, including dancing, their risk of dementia was lessened 4. The study, led by Joe Verghese, M.D., looked at the behavior of 469 subjects 75 years and older who did not have dementia at the beginning of the study. They were followed over a median period of five years. Reading, and playing board games and musical instruments were associated with reduced dementia risk, but dancing was the only physical activity that carried reduced risk. Subjects who danced as often as three or four times per week showed 76 percent less incidence of dementia than those who danced once a week or not at all.

Other Effects

Because dancing is weight-bearing, it can help improve bone density and decrease the likelihood of osteoporosis. Those turns and dips can also improve muscle strength and coordination. Dancing also helps with balance, something that is important in older people and keeps them from falling. Psychologically, dancing offers an opportunity to be with others, and to work off stress and fatigue. The music that accompanies dancing can heighten energy and mood, and provide an enjoyable time.