Dance, Dance, Dance

🕔Dec 03, 2008

Last November, a couple of weeks before Shames Mountain opened for the season, I found myself standing on the side of a run, watching with delightThe holiday season is undoubtedly a time for rejoicing. Unfortunately, the average adult does a little too much celebrating during this time of year, which leads to extra baggage when the New Year rings in. Festivities that include indulging in extra helpings, snacking on seasonal treats, and little to no workout time all contribute to the increase in dieters in January.
Moderation is the word of the season; it’s the secret to achieving a fun but also healthy holiday. With a moderate approach both to what you eat (or don’t eat) and how much exercise you do (or don’t do), you can avoid packing on weight AND partake in all the fun of this time of year.
So, buck the trend this holiday season and avoid the Seasonal Seven—the average weight most of us will gain between the end of November and the New Year. Take any opportunity to be active and burn some calories. Have you ever considered getting out on the dance floor for some exercise? Even though you’ve probably danced a little here and there, you may not have considered it to be “real” exercise because it’s so enjoyable. This element of fun is exactly what makes dancing such a great way to get in shape and burn calories—if you like it, you’ll do it more often and before you know it, the 10 minutes you thought you would spend on the dance floor can turn to 20…or 30…or…!!!

Dance the night—and calories—away

Dancing is a fantastic form of exercise. Not only does it raise the heart rate, dancing also tones and tightens the major muscle groups of the body. Dancing can burn as many calories as walking, swimming or riding a bicycle. A half-hour session of sustained dancing can burn a lot of calories: in general, about 306 calories an hour for a 150-pound person, and 408 for a 200-pound person. Of course, the calories burned and the aerobic effect will depend on the dance style. If you are doing a slow fox-trot all night, as opposed to disco dancing or square dancing, you will burn considerably less. But whatever the dance style, the steps, patterns and music keep your mind busy while you work your heart, burn calories and tone your muscles. Before you know it, you are sweaty and exhilarated, plus getting fit without pumping iron or spending time on the treadmill. You can have so much fun dancing the night away that you’ll forget you’re getting exercise!
While it’s easy to zone out on the treadmill, elliptical trainer, or bicycle for thirty minutes without paying attention to the sensations in your body, dancing is different because it stimulates your mind during the entire session. You have to pay attention to your steps at all times and anticipate your next move, which keeps you connected to your body the entire time, without getting bored.
This mental connection may be just what you need to stay sharp into your senior years, too. A 21-year study of senior citizens, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that frequent dancing offered the greatest protection against dementia—a phenomenal 76% reduction in risk as compared to other physical activities like golf.

Bountiful benefits

Not only does dancing increase blood flow to the brain, the social aspect of dance reduces stress, depression and loneliness. The need to memorize steps and work in sync with a partner also provides a mental challenge that keeps the mind active.
Dance also counts as weight-bearing exercise, which means that it can help strengthen bones and fight osteoporosis. It requires agility, balance, and grace—qualities that you might not get in a typical gym workout.
Dancing is also one workout that allows you to march to the beat of a different drummer: beat, bop or groove!
So if you are having a party during or after this holiday season, or want to jazz up the functions you are attending, suggest some dancing. Remember the music you listened to when you were young—the music that takes you back to that wonderful time when you were teenagers and had your whole lives before you? You can use that same music to get your parties hopping and get everyone away from the food and liquid refreshments for a while, and out dancing. Music, especially from your own era, makes you feel happy, young and energetic. Who can resist smiling when they hear Footloose, and you know you just can’t sit still when you hear Crocodile Rock. Use those feelings to get your party started and avoid those pesky holiday pounds.
If you’re a little shy, don’t forget that you can always crank up the tunes in your own living room and dance away to your heart’s content. The kids can even join in, making for a fun family fitness night. So put on your favourite music, grab a partner and start boogying.
Hopefully this tip will help you find a balance between staying fit and enjoying the fun of the season. Remember, moderation is the key.