Originating in the seventeenth century, ballroom dancing developed as a social activity intended to be performed with a partner that embraces folk traditions and culture. From the tango to Cha-Cha and jive, ballroom dancing follows a set of prescribed steps that are repeated to match the music. While you're getting lost in the rhythm, here's how your mind and body will reap the benefits of this fun workout.
1. You could get social
Ballroom dancing as a sport has grown 35 percent in the past decade, according to USA Dance, which represents social and recreational ballroom dancers. Couples dancing may help improve your social skills since you have to coordinate with a partner, says Grant Sunada, a community wellness researcher at the University of Utah’s School of Medicine, and an avid dancer for 20 years.
2. It may help protect your brain
Fun fact: Albert Einstein was a big fan of dancing—and for good reason. A long-term observational study of older adults dancing several times per week was associated with a 76 percent reduced risk of developing dementia, according to a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine. And for some people, dancing may be a way to lift mood, Sunada says.
3. Your posture may improve
Tone up, up top! “You don’t just work the lower half of the body,” says Melissa Trader, a certified ballroom dance instructor at Red Rocks Community College in Lakewood, CO. “The upper body must be carried with a strong frame, helping to work your shoulders, arms, core, and back— muscles essential to standing up straight and tall.”
4. It may leave you more limber
You may boost your flexibility and balance—skills that are often missed in traditional cardio workouts. Ballroom dance stretches your muscles while you move, helping to expand your range of motion, Trader says. In addition, shifting your weight while moving in different directions may help improve your balance, which could prevent future injury.
5. It’s available across the country
Ready to dance? Head to usadance.org to find a local USA Dance chapter near you. Each chapter promotes ballroom dancing in its community or region, and encourages people—even the rhythmically challenged— to sign up for a class. Check out groupon.com or livingsocial.com to find deals on classes in your area.