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A step in the right direction: Healthy steps

Lean and stress-free, the epitome of a dancer!
Lean and stress-free, the epitome of a dancer!

In 2009, listed Columbus, Ohio as being the 31st most stressful city in the United States. Men's Fitness also listed Columbus as being the 18th fattest city. The great thing about dancing is that it can cure both of those problems without even trying.

Dancing is a unique form of exercise in that it can be both aerobic and anaerobic. Aerobic exercise includes activities that increase your heart rate, are of a moderate intensity and can be carried out for at least thirty minutes so that it increases the need of oxygen to your heart. Anaerobic exercises include an intense exertion of muscle in a short amount of time with little recovery time. If you social dance continuously for an hour or take a Latin aerobics class for 30 minutes, then dancing has become a form of aerobic exercise. If you practice jive kicks for a short amount of time, but quickly (as jive is done) or do a set of plies where you use your own body weight as resistance, then it would be considered as a form anaerobic exercise.

Other physical benefits of dancing include flexibility, strength and endurance. Two really great articles on the physical benefits of dancing can be found here and here.

Dancing also provides multiple benefits for people that go past the usual physical advantages. Unlike many sports and other forms of exercising, dancing is also an art form and allows for creative expression as well as a physical well-being. Having a creative outlet decreases stress and allows people the opportunity to express themselves in ways that are not provided in their regular day-to-day activities (unless, of course, you're an artist).

Dancing provides many emotional and mental health benefits too. Partnered dancing, such as ballroom dancing, promotes social activity which not only increases one's social skills but also gives people more self-confidence and better self-esteem. The more positive of an outlook people have on life, the less stressed out they will be. Dancing can also decrease the risk of Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia.

The best part about making dancing a daily (or weekly) addition to your life is that it's fun. You get an excellent physical benefit and an even better mental benefit. You'll feel better, look better and who knows, maybe in 2010 you can help to bring Columbus off of the fattest and most stressful cities list and make it onto the fittest and happiest list.