We all know that regular exercise is important for our lifelong health. However, so often the exercise routines we’re told are “best for us” feel like hard work. The fun types of exercise that we gleefully pursued as kids — like sports, dancing, or even playing tag — are often replaced by more solitary forms in adulthood, like jogging, spin class, or high intensity interval training. But does a fun, communal workout necessarily mean a less effective one?
According to numerous studies, dancing is not only a highly effective physical workout; it also strengthens your cognitive, social, psychological, and emotional health. In particular, hip hop dance classes have been shown to offer less fatigue, improved mood, and better stress management than other forms of exercise. Plus, you’re a lot more likely to keep up your workout regiment if you’re having fun doing it!
Check out these five ways dancing to your favorite new song can help you be happier and healthier.
Burn More Calories in Less Time
We’re always looking for ways to shorten our workouts, and dance is a great way to work more muscles in less time. Ditch your hour of bootcamp or running on the treadmill for a one hour dance class! The stats don’t lie — according to a study from the University of Brighton, a hour of hip hop (listed as ‘street dance’) easily burns almost 100 calories more
than an hour of biking, swimming, football, or running. (Source: City Academy & The University of Brighton)
Plus, since most dance classes are scheduled for at least one hour, you are less likely to end your workout early; being surrounded by other dancers and accompanied by the pumping music elevates your energy, meaning you’re more likely to push through your workout after the initial muscle soreness sets in. Just like powering through a run to achieve a ‘runner’s high,’ dancing provides the same energy burst and increased positivity that you get from tackling your first mile, according to study coauthor Dr. Nick Smeeton.
Like high intensity interval training, hip hop dance classes require quick bursts of high energy movement followed by short periods of rest. Exercising in quick bursts has been shown to increase your metabolic rate — or, the rate at which your body burns calories — for hours after you’re done exercising, while also prompting your body to burn fat for energy rather than burning carbs. This means dancing is an awesome way to lose weight or maintain a healthy body weight.
Give Yourself a Confidence Boost
Prepping for a huge presentation at work? Learning to dance can make you a more effective speaker and more confident presenter during your next high profile meeting. Being surrounded by mirrors might seem intimidating at first, but learning to dance can actually significantly reduce anxiety, especially in an improvisational environment like a Banana Skirt hip hop class!
Learning something new often increases confidence, and that’s especially true when you’re watching yourself improve in front of a mirror! After a long day at work, a dance class can help you release pent-up emotions, experience more joy, and express your creativity in a non-verbal way. Learning to dance triggers the same parts of your brain as learning a new language, allowing you to better express yourself when it comes time to ask your boss for a raise, give a speech, or write an important paper.
Even though dancing in a room full of other people may seem nerve-wracking for those with social anxiety, studies from as far back as 1984 have shown that dancing can help you feel more comfortable and grounded in your body, making it easier to express yourself to others and feel better in social settings.
Plus, it turns out the wall of mirrors are actually your friend! Not only do they help you mirror your instructor as you learn, but they also quickly remind you that everyone else in the class is learning and watching the teacher for help, allowing you to relax and have more fun.
Leave behind those late night study sessions! According to the New England Journal of Medicine, dance can significantly improve memory and cognitive acuity (that is, how effectively your brain processes information) in people of all ages. Developing a lifelong habit of dancing can substantially decrease the likelihood of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia in a way that no other physical workout can. This is because dancing helps your brain develop neuroplasticity.
What’s neuroplasticity, you ask? Multiple studies have shown that the trick to improving brain function at any age is to strengthen synapses in the brain, and neuroplasticity is how your brain rewires itself as it learns new activities. This helps your brain create associations and connections in new ways.
Since dance choreography is constantly changing and improvisation requires quick thinking, dance helps you form new neural pathways every time you attend a dance class. The more active your brain’s synapses are, the easier it is for you to learn new things, enhancing your learning capabilities and improving your problem solving skills. Dancing is one of the best ways to keep your brain youthful, so you can quickly absorb new information.
Make New Friends
It can be hard making friends in big cities like New York or D.C., but a dance class is the perfect place to meet new people. Taking a dance class at Banana Skirt is the perfect place to easily make new friends after work. Plus, did we mention that dancing with other people is actually good for your social health?
We all know dance gets our endorphins pumping — you know, the chemical that makes your brain happy. But a recent study shows that synchronized dancing in a group significantly increases your pain threshold and endorphin level. This goes a step beyond dancing in the club; when three or more people are doing the same high energy dance, their endorphins sky rocket, making everyone feel happier and healthier.
This is about more than just making friends; taking a dance class can help you feel like you’re part of a community, which does wonders for your overall happiness. Belonging to a community build social cohesion and trust — two necessary things that many city goers lack in their every day lives. We build bonds faster with others while dancing, so a Banana Skirt class is the perfect place to bring your new roommate, get to know a new friend, or even bring a date! Plus, then you’ll have some new moves to show off at the club next weekend.
Once class is over, you and your classmates have a new experience to bond over. This is the perfect time to use your newfound confidence and ask your classmates to join you for a drink down the block.
Eliminate Aches and Pains
You may have muscle strain right after a workout, but over time, regular exercise is known eliminate pain through your muscles and joints. Dance is pretty unique compared to other exercise through — while dance can feel gentle like yoga or pilates, it tones many different muscle groups at the same time. Instead of focusing on one thing, like endurance training or weight lifting, dance can help your body improve in many different areas at once.
Most commonly, dance is known to increase flexibility, particularly because each class starts with a flexibility-based warmup and ends with a cool down. These stretches may seem easy, but they are necessary to reduce muscle stiffness, avoid getting injured, and get your body ready to dance. Take note of the stretches you do before class and try them at home to reduce your post-workout soreness.
Additionally, an hour of dance a week can help undo much of the damage inflicted on your body from slumping over a computer at work. Dance naturally focuses on improving and changing your posture, which leads to fewer back aches, less stress on your spine, and easier breathing. Plus, you’ll definitely look more confident when you’re standing up straight.
As you can see, turning on the radio and dancing it out to your favorite song can do wonders for your health. Unfortunately, so many of us feel awkward dancing that we avoid doing something so awesome for our mind, body, and spirit. Now that you know the health benefits of dance, it’s time to get up and move! Forget feeling awkward — learn the moves to all your favorite songs in a Banana Skirt class.
About Banana Skirt Productions
Channel your inner PopStar and dance yourself into sizzling shape at Banana Skirt Productions, the studio Shape Magazine deems “perfect for anyone who feels like cardio can be torture…an instant mood booster and a serious workout.”
Selected as one of the “Biggest Fitness Trends of 2017” by Elle UK, Banana Skirt offers a one-of-a-kind dance cardio experience led by a team of ultra-energetic, fun, and friendly professional dance instructors. Banana Skirt offers 4 distinct classes to give you flat abs, lean legs, a toned seat, and soaring energy:
Starpop Fitness breaks down the exact moves from your favorite music videos or concert performances while whittling your body and boosting your confidence.
Cise (Beyoncercise, Britneycise…) and Bandz A Make Her Dance are calorie-torching HIIT classes that combine heart-pumping signature moves with calisthenic toners.
Ratchet Fitness is a watch & follow class that feels like your best night out, under club lights and a stress-busting playlist.
Banana Skirt hosts fun and lively fitness classes that increase your stamina and endurance. This constant motion helps build endurance and increases your aerobic capacity while you have fun learning the choreography and burning calories.
No previous dance experience required — just an open mind, a desire to have lots of fun, and the passion to move your body like a popstar!