By Terri Bodell

It’s a common misconception that dance classes are for kids or the younger adult, but more and more people over 40 are joining dance classes and finding that they are having fun, keeping fit and making new friends.

At the Move It show in March we saw a group of ‘dance mums’ perform on the main stage. They were all ages, sizes and abilities, and the audience loved them. And whilst you might not want to get up and perform in front of a crowd, dance is recreational and fun to do just for you.

Ballroom dancing is a great way for people of all ages to get in shape and stay fit. We all know it’s a terrific workout but dancing with others has many other great benefits for the older generations.  

So if you’re one of those who says “I’m too old to begin now”; perhaps it time to think again.

Dancing is good for your bones and joints

A article in 2009 states that “social dancing” has many benefits for seniors.

It safely strengthens your bones and muscles, keeps your joints lubricated and moving freely giving you a better range of motion and can help prevent arthritis.

Not only that but dancing helps in the prevention of osteoporosis for men and women. For post-menopause women, there can be a significant drop in oestrogen levels, which stops calcium from being absorbed into the bones.

Dancing keeps your memory sharp

Dancing slows down the aging process and can protect our brains from declining.

Keeping your brain active is important, particularly as you get older. Learning a dance routine and remembering the steps is a great way to do this. In fact, studies have even shown that dancing regularly can reduce your risk of dementia.

A study published in The New England Journal of Medicine showed a connection between dancing and reduced amounts of dementia. 

It helps keep your mind active, because as you’re learning new ways to move your body and new dance routines, and so it’s great exercise for your brain; it improves our memory and cognitive functioning by making us recall steps, routines and dance sequences.

Dancing helps reduce the risk of falls and injuries

Older people who have been dancing for years still enjoy a great range of mobility and flexibility.

Also, because dancing works on your core muscles – as well as all other muscle groups of your body – it improves your balance as well as cognitive and fine motor performance.

Each year more than 1 in 4 adults over 65 suffers a fall. Dance can be beneficial in reducing the risk of falls and injuries because it helps you to get in touch with your body and strengthen your muscles, bones and joints. Dancing also enhances co-ordination and improves your reflexes.

A study by the Imperial College London has shown a connection between dancing and increase of balance and decrease of dizziness.

Dancing is good for your heart health

Dance is a good way to give your heart the exercise it needs which can help lower your blood cholesterol as well as increase your general cardiovascular health. It aids in lipid control, which raises our HDL (good cholesterol), and lowers our LDL (bad cholesterol).

Researchers at Western Sydney University’s School of Science & Health reported that people over the age of 40 who dance almost halve the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease.

Dancing is also great for diabetics because it helps with blood sugar control.

Dancing boosts mood

Dancing raises our endorphin levels, which are the mood-improving brain chemicals. It improves the harmony between our mind and body, giving us a sense of wellbeing.

Dancing is also recreational and entertaining. It gives us the opportunity to meet new people from all walks of life and make new friends whilst giving us a sense of satisfaction as we master new dances and new skills.

Benefits of Dance in a nutshell:

Safe and easy on the joints

Improves strength, flexibility, agility, and balance

Develop good posture

Better balance and control of the body’s movements helping reduce risk of falls and trips

Conditions the heart and cardiovascular system, and improves lung capacity

Increases energy, lifts mood and fights depression

Boosts memory and keeps the brain active

It can be done at any level – from new students walking through dance routines and learning new muscle memory to experienced social dancers.

Everyone can do something, even if it’s just tapping your foot to the music.  So just give it a go, you might be surprised how much you enjoy it.

I always suggest however that would-be dancers consult their doctors first, especially if they have any health problems.

Terri Bodell is a qualified CBT psychotherapist, FitSteps instructor and Principal of Nicks Dance School in Potters Bar. These days her focus is back to dancing as she is completely dedicated to continuing the legacy of her fiancé Nick Peacock with whom she set up Nicks Dance School and who sadly passed away.