Benefits of Dancing

No Wonder Dancing Salsa Feels So Good......

Music and dancing has been a part of many different cultures for centuries. It is part of celebration and entertainment. And whether they knew it or not, way back when the dancing began, there are numerous amazing health benefits. Now that the American population & many others are facing a major obesity epidemic, health benefits from dancing is something that should be taken a closer look at.

The Health Benefits of Salsa Dancing

Not only is dancing an exceptional way to let loose and have fun, but it also provides some terrific benefits for your health.

In fact, Mayo Clinic researchers reported that social dancing helps to:

* Reduce stress

* Increase energy

* Improve strength

* Increase muscle tone and coordination

Dancing the night away can burn more calories per hour than riding a bike or swimming.

And whether you like to kick up your heals to hip hop, salsa or country, the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute says that dancing can:

* Lower your risk of coronary heart disease

* Decrease blood pressure

* Help you manage your weight

* Strengthen the bones of your legs and hips

Salsa dancing is a unique form of exercise because it provides the heart-healthy benefits of an aerobic exercise while also allowing you to engage in a social activity.

The amount of benefit you get from dancing depends on, like most exercises, the type of dancing you're doing, how strenuous it is, the duration and your skill level.


Salsa Dancing

* Builds endurance and stamina

* Helps with weight loss

* Relieves stress

* Helps you release toxins via sweating

* May help lower blood pressure and improve cholesterol levels

* Can lead to a reduced heart rate over time

Dancing Off Those Calories

How many calories will you burn while dancing? That depends on the type of dancing. Here's a range of some of the most popular varieties, based on a 150-pound person, per hour:

* Swing dancing: 235 calories/hour

* Ballroom dancing: 265 calories/hour

* Square dancing: 280 calories/hour

* Ballet: 300 calories/hour

* Belly dancing: 380 calories/hour

* Salsa dancing: 420+ calories/hour

* Aerobic dancing: 540+ calories/hour

Mental Benefits of Dancing Salsa

Dancing is a unique form of exercise because it provides the heart-healthy benefits of an aerobic exercise while also allowing you to engage in a social activity. This is especially stimulating to the mind, and one 21-year study published in the New England Journal of Medicine even found dancing can reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia in the elderly.

In the study, participants over the age of 75 who engaged in reading, dancing and playing musical instruments and board games once a week had a 7 percent lower risk of dementia compared to those who did not. Those who engaged in these activities at least 11 days a month had a 63 percent lower risk!

Interestingly, dancing was the only physical activity out of 11 in the study that was associated with a lower risk of dementia. Said Joe Verghese, a neurologist at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and a lead researcher of the study, "This is perhaps because dance music engages the dancer's mind."

Verghese says dancing may be a triple benefit for the brain. Not only does the physical aspect of dancing increase blood flow to the brain, but also the social aspect of the activity leads to less stress, depression and loneliness. Further, dancing requires memorizing steps and working with a partner, both of which provide mental challenges that are crucial for brain health.

So clearly dancing salsa is excellent for your body, mind, and soul. Pick up a new heart healthy habit and learn to dance salsa.

Exercise or activity that involves stretching muscles ensures that joints are mobile and the body is more elastic and supple.

Stretching gradually increases elasticity, tone, and strength of muscles.  It also improves range of joint motion, suppleness and posture.  Plus it helps prevent stiffness and injury as well as improving general well-being and vitality.

What are stretching and toning exercises?
The body benefits from all forms or exercise and activity – and the non-strenuous forms provide just as many rewards, dancing is one of these.

Stretching, the truth: 
the science behind range of motion

In 1998, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommended that athletes incorporate flexibility exercises in their fitness program to develop and maintain range of motion.
As a result, flexibility training has become a growing trend in the area of fitness as the population grows older and seeks a softer workout to regain strength and flexibility.
The media's positive portrayal of yoga and Pilates, including pictures and interviews with celebrities like Madonna, Christy Turlington and Meg Ryan, has also increased the public's interest in this form of exercise.  But when people talk about stretching, what do they really mean?

Understanding stretching
Many people's anatomic model for stretching is Gumby, which translates into their misinterpretation of the methods and techniques surrounding stretching. Flexibility and range of motion are critical components in the fitness equation, and every method and technique must be appropriate to what you are stretching and who is doing the stretching.
Each person's body defines its own range of motion, and there is no standard when dealing with a varied population. 
To understand stretching, you must realize that your muscles are not in charge of your range of motion. Skeletal muscle facilitates bone and joint actions, which dictate range of motion. Each joint has a distinct contact surface that determines its mobility and limitations.
When you stretch your muscle, it is actually the joint and ligaments being moved across these various contact surfaces. Normal range of motion is part of healthy joint movements, but it is very unhealthy for individuals to stretch past their limitations. Studies have shown that people who continuously perform intense stretches that exceed their physical limitation create uneven mechanical wear on the joints and ligaments, which lead to osteoarthritis.

There is no question that yoga and Pilates have revolutionized the way many Americans exercise by going beyond a "no pain, no gain" mentality to a more holistic workout of the body. However, these forms of exercise can permanently alter body alignment, muscular balance and posture when students are pushed to extreme ranges.
You should never impose irregular range of motion on your body. It should be allowed by your body, without force. Some people are born with the natural ability to stretch their body to abnormal limits, but most people have to work at maintaining their normal range of motion or lose flexibility as they age.

Types of stretching
Further complicating the already-complex and controversial subject of flexibility is figuring out what exercises are best for you. Several methods of stretching will improve range of motion and enhance muscular performance. Here's a brief description of a few stretching techniques:

Static: Static stretching is often seen in the health clubs or at sporting events when athletes slowly stretch their muscles to the end point of movement and hold the stretch for a period of time, such as doing a split.
Ballistic: Ballistic stretching is a very controversial technique that uses bouncing and abrupt movements to gain momentum to create greater range of motion. Most experts feel that this type of stretch does not allow the muscles and tendons to fully adapt to the demand of the stretch position.
Active: In active stretch, the limbs and joints are stretched to a given point and held in position using an opposing muscle group. For example, to stretch your quadriceps you would bring your heel back to your buttock and hold it there using your hamstrings. This form of stretch is demanding, but effective because there is no external force applying pressure to the skeletal muscle.
Passive: During the passive stretch, muscles are taken through their range of motion by an external force, such as a piece of equipment, your own hand or a partner. For example, to perform a passive stretch of the chest, a partner would stretch you by securing your arms behind your body. The disadvantage of passive stretching is understanding how far to go; too little accomplishes nothing and too much can cause injury.
Slow movement: Slow movements of a muscle, such as neck, arm and trunk rotations, are stretching techniques that are more appropriate for warming up to do another activity. 
Dynamic: Dynamic flexibility involves controlled swinging of your limb with a gradual increase of the distance, speed and intensity, without going past a healthy range of motion, such as a split leap in dance.

The benefits
Many short- and long-term benefits occur as a result of regular flexibility training. Initially, stretching maintains and increases range of motion and increases blood supply to the soft muscle tissue. The changes can enhance sports performance and help prevent injury. Initiating regular flexibility training will also prevent the body from losing range of motion and allow the body to function better as a whole.

Stretching should not be confused with warming up.  
Cold muscles should never be stretched, due to the risk of injury.
Breathing is an important aspect to consider during stretching exercise, as it helps relax the body, increases oxygenated blood flow, and removes by-products from muscles.  
Slow deep breaths inhaled through the nose and exhaled through the mouth is the suggested technique.  You should feel the abdomen, rather than the chest, expand.  You should breathe out as you hold the stretch.

Things to be aware of
Many health books contain stretching routines, and your local gym or health centre can show you how to stretch safely and effectively.
• Never stretch cold muscles, as you risk injury.
• Never ‘bounce’ or perform jerky movements, as strain is placed on muscles and the skeleton.
• Never force a stretch that seems difficult, even if you have been able to perform it in the past.
• Stop immediately if you feel any pain.
• You should not hold your breath during stretching exercises.
• Stand up / get up slowly if you have been doing stretches on the floor.


Warming up and cooling down
Warming up and cooling down greatly reduces the likelihood of injury. However, it is unlikely that you will consider this before strenuous gardening or dog walking!
Exercise sessions or periods of activity should always commence with a warm up period.  
This is because:
•  Core body temperature is raised by a couple of degrees
This means:
• Oxygen supply to muscles is increased
• Muscles are less tense
• Heart, lungs and other organs are prepared for a period of activity – i.e. it gets your blood pumping
In theory, anything that increases body temperature can be useful for a warm-up period.  During warm-up, you also prepare yourself mentally for a period of activity.

If you are following specific exercises, a short period (5 – 10 minutes) of low-intensity aerobic activity, such as walking or dancing, it's a good way to warm up the whole body.  Any activity that gently increases cardiovascular output should be considered.

Muscles and joints should only be stretched or rotated after core temperature and blood flow have been increased through some form of aerobic activity. Slow gentle stretches, starting with the upper and lower back, followed by the lower body and limbs, help warm the muscles up further.

Cooling down
A cooling-down period after exercise is as important as warming up, and should not be avoided.  Again, cooling down after gardening may not be considered, but may be helpful.
The purpose of cooling down is to minimise muscle fatigue and soreness. Pain felt in muscles after exercise is caused by the production of lactic acid during activity. Cooling down assists the body in the removal of this by-product, hence reducing pain and discomfort.
Simply stretching muscles is not a legitimate way to cool down – but it can form part of the process. The cool-down period is similar to the warm-up – and should include gentle aerobic exercise as well as stretching.
Between 5 and 10 minutes of low-intensity exercise should be carried out at the end of your activity, such as walking or slower paced dancing. This assists in slowing heart rate, removing by-products from the muscles, and cooling core temperature.
After this short period, muscles should be gently stretched.  This reduces the cramping or the tight feeling sometimes experienced, and improves flexibility. If you are sore the day after exercise, some gentle warm-up and cool-down exercises can help alleviate any discomfort, as lactic acid will still be present in the muscles.
Did you know that a massage is a brilliant way to cool down tired muscles after exercise?


Mind, body & soul
Physical activity and relaxation hold important places in a holistic approach to health management. Use it to find a new sense of well-being and inner peace. 
Try to set aside 10 or 15 minutes a day, which is 'Me Time' or 'White Space' in your daily schedule.  
This is because:
• small increases in activity (and fitness) can lead to large improvements in quality of life
• relaxation allows energy to flow more freely and our minds and bodies to function more efficiently
Try any activities with which you feel comfortable and which will gently raise your body temperature.  The most popular are walking, dancing, yoga, massage, and T’ai Chi but even having a spa or bath with time to collect your thoughts can help you relax.
Physical activity increases energy production by delivering more oxygen to the muscles, which reduces fatigue.  So after any activity you should feel more energetic and invigorated.

Adopting a variety of activities is beneficial in order to reduce the risk of injury, and prevents local muscular fatigue, which results from highly repetitive actions.  It also prevents a sense of monotony or boredom and allows you to design your own holistic programme catering for all aspects of your health, not just the physical.  Relaxation helps achieve the full benefits of activity.

If none of these suits you then why not simply try to increase any daily physical activity with your friends and family by going walking, dancing or bowling. You could even treat yourself to a massage or to some aromatherapy or reflexology. 
Remember that as your health is based on many physical, mental and social aspects, it is important that you participate in a variety of activities that will help improve each component.  Don’t simply focus on your physical health.

Tips for success
You don't need to be 'gym crazy' or a top athlete to be successful in fulfiling a healthy lifestyle. The following suggestions show you just how easy it is to fit activity and exercise into your daily routine. 
Make activity a part of your daily life.
Why not walk to collect your newspaper rather than have it delivered.  Check your local paper for alternative activity-promotion campaigns such as walking or cycling schemes, go out social latin/salsa dancing and join with a couple of classes per week.

Don’t run before you can walk
Running is not recommended as a new activity for older people as the impact can cause serious injuries to the knee and hip joints.  Fast walking is much safer - and may be more beneficial for someone wishing to burn fat.
Start slowly
Be patient.  Remember that any exercise or activity is better than a sedentary lifestyle.  Aim to build up to half an hour of activity on most days of the week.


Don’t let yourself become dehydrated
Take a drink every 10 – 15 minutes whilst exercising and frequently throughout the day.
Make it fun

Choose activities you enjoy and vary them.
Time is one of the biggest barriers to becoming more physically active
Don’t try to exercise when you are hungry or when your favourite TV programme is on.  If exercise competes with a more positive behavioural cue it will lose every time.  Instead, try to incorporate it into everyday life so it becomes a habit, one that you would miss if the habit were broken.

Exercise myths
We use excuses every day to avoid activity and exercise. We look at the most common exercise myths, and why they are simply untrue. 
Physical activity in the home is not effective
Findings indicate that adherence to home-based aerobic programmes was significantly higher at 75-79% compared to 53% for group-based aerobic programmes (King et al 1999).
It hurts – “No pain, no gain, no way”
Learn the difference between pain and your body's normal discomfort from physical exertion. To be of benefit the activity should make you feel warm and breathe more heavily than usual, but not cause any pain.
I’m too old to start
There is no upper age limit to the benefits of exercise, even among people who have been lifelong couch potatoes.
I can’t exercise in my condition.  I might injure myself.  It will do me more harm than good
People tend to exaggerate the risks of exercise and underestimate their capabilities, believing that the need for regular exercise decreases with age.  Such attitudes are inaccurate and misinformed, based on faulty perceptions and beliefs.  Why not ask your GP for advice?
So remember – it’s never too early or too late to start being physically active, but it is always too early to stop.


Science says dancing with friends is good for your health

You might not think of yourself as a dancer. In fact, maybe even the idea of dancing makes your palms sweat. But growing scientific evidence suggests that getting up and grooving with others has a lot of benefits. In ourrecent study, we found that synchronizing with others while dancing raised pain tolerance. It also encouraged people to feel closer to others.

This might have positive implications for dance movement therapies, which are already showing promising results in the treatment of dementia and Parkinson’sMusic-based therapy is also already used for children with autism, and perhaps synchronized and exertive dance therapy could also help them connect with others.


The power of music

Humans are naturally susceptible to music: when we hear a good beat, it makes us want to move. You might find yourself tapping your finger or foot in time to a song on the radio, or bobbing your head (if not whole body) at a concert. This is something that even babies do.

Humans have danced together in groups throughout history. And with a rise in dance activities ranging from Zumba to flashmobs, collective dancing—an activity which involves synchronizing with both the musical beat and fellow dancers—shows no signs of letting up.

So, why do people do it? There has been much debate about whether there is any evolutionary explanation for our tendency to dance. Most likely it features in our selection of romantic partners, and also in how wesignal our group membership to other rival groups (think of the highly synchronized Haka). One of the main theories about why we dance is that it offers opportunities to form positive connections with others.

So far, our testing of the “social bonding” hypothesis of dance has focused on one particular aspect: synchronization with other people.


It turns out that when you synchronize even a small movement, like the tapping of your finger in time with someone else, you feel closer and more trusting of that person than if you had tapped out of time.


This is because when we watch someone else do the same thing at the same time as us, our brain ends up with a merged sense of us and them. It feels like we “become one”. Anyone who has ever rowed might be familiar with that moment when you hit a state of perfect synchronization with your rowing team. Suddenly you feel like you are part of something bigger than just yourself, and that you belong.


The science of dance and friendship

In other social animals like monkeys and apes, activities which encourage social connections, or “friendships”, are underpinned by various hormones. It is likely that we use similar chemical pathways to forge our social relationships.

Called the brain’s “happy chemicals” because of their feelgood effects, endorphins are released when we exercise. They may also be an important chemical in human and other primate’s bonding processes. In fact, the social closeness humans feel when doing synchronized activities may be because they trigger the release of a cocktail of bonding hormones, including endorphins.

Dance can be both exertive and synchronized, so we wanted to see what the relative effects of both these aspects might be on bonding and on endorphins. As it’s hard to measure endorphin levels directly, we used pain thresholds as an indirect measure. More endorphins mean we tolerate pain better, so measuring relative increases in people’s pain thresholds can indicate whether endorphins are being released (although other chemicals like endocannabinoids are probably also in the mix).


We had 264 young people take part in the study in Brazil. The students did the experiment in groups of three, and they did either high or low-exertion dancing that was either synchronized or unsynchronized. The high exertion moves were all standing, full bodied movements, and those in the low-exertion groups did small hand movements sitting down. Before and after the activity, we measured the teenagers’ feelings of closeness to each other via a questionnaire. We also measured their pain threshold by attaching and inflating a blood pressure cuff on their arm, and determining how much pressure they could stand.

Not surprisingly, those who did full-bodied exertive dancing had higher pain thresholds compared to those who were seated in the low-exertion groups. But curiously we also found that synchronization led to higher pain thresholds, even if the synchronized movements were not exertive. So long as people saw that others were doing the same movement at the same time, their pain thresholds went up.


Likewise, synchronized activity encouraged bonding more than unsynchronized dancing, and more energetic activity had a similar effect – it also made the groups feel closer. So all in all, moving energetically or moving in synchronization can both make you feel closer to others when you are dancing, and lead to higher pain thresholds. But dance which combined high energy and synchrony had the greatest effects.

Although there are lots of examples of highly synchronized and exertive dances around the world (flashmobs are a good example), dance also involves other features like creative expression, improvisation, ritual and cultural significance. These elements no doubt also contribute to why we have such a widespread appreciation and aptitude for dance.


But whatever the reason, if dance helps us build social cohesion and trust, then as a collectively advantageous behavior it is probably one we should all do more. So the next time you find yourself at an awkward Christmas party or wedding dance floor, wondering whether or not to get up and groove, just do it.