Why Scientists Agree That Dancing Is the Best Way to Get Fit and Live Longer

“You only live once; but if you do it right, once is enough.” ~Mae West

The other day, I saw a bit of a clip from a video of the Stones’ last world tour. Mick Jagger was prancing round the stage like an eighteen year-old.

It was a bit depressing. Why can’t I do that still?

I used to be a demon dancer. Well, I thought I was at the time, like teenagers do.

I don’t feel like a demon dancer now. I really ought to get some more exercise.

Do you feel like that? That you ought to exercise, but you can’t really get up the steam to do it? That somehow, it’s all too much hassle, even though we all know how important it is?

“Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live.” ~Jim Rohn

I’m always looking for some way of doing exercise that I enjoy and will stick with.

Are you like me? You’ve tried—not just tried; you’ve tried everything?

But it doesn’t work out.

I took up swimming before work.

You have to wear your work clothes and change in and out of them. Your hair gets wet and takes ages to dry. If you’re unlucky, you drop your suit jacket on the muddy changing room floor. So, you go to work with a jacket with a dirty stain on it. Plus, you smell of chlorine all day and get plantar warts.

When I was well into the corporate life, I went to a gym, but that wasn’t much fun. I was always tired, even before the extra journey to get there. There are all those incomprehensible machines to make you do unnatural things. It’s boring, nobody talks to anyone else, and the changing rooms smell horrible.

I took up running. That was better, although mostly still nobody to talk to. At least it was outside in the fresh air. I even ran to work sometimes, although you have all the shower and change of clothes difficulties at work then.

I did a few fun runs and that was a bit of a laugh—but I got quite fit! Then I had a small accident and suddenly running wasn’t a good idea any more. Bad for the back, bad for the knees.

Since then I’ve been sure to keep on walking. Every day. But it’s rather boring, doing the same walks over and over again. In the town, there’s all that pollution to deal with too. And it isn’t any fun at all when it’s raining.

No wonder people don’t get enough exercise—it’s all too difficult in today’s world.

Here I am, still not that fit and getting a bit less fit as each year goes by. Making the same old New Year’s resolutions.

The Science of Exercise and a Bit of Motivation

I came across an article about how scientists had determined the best exercise for a long and active life. Yeah, I want to live a nice long time. Show me where to sign up!

Scientific research shows that the best exercise you can get to live longer and in better health is dancing. What—old fashioned, may I have the pleasure, ballroom type dancing? (Well, it is very popular now.) How can that be the latest, best new exercise hack?

Did you go dancing when you were young? I did. Friends and laughter, and the music was great! It beat hockey practice, or netball or football or whatever sports we were made to play at school.

And the scientists agree! Dancing does much more for your body, your muscles, and your brain. You have to be disciplined, coordinated, flexible. You need good posture and strong muscles. You have to control your breathing.

It keeps your brain active, because you have to integrate so many different things at once—moving your arms, legs, and head in the right way, keeping in time to the music. You have to be aware of others on the dance floor and gracefully avoid them. You have to memorize the steps.

All that work makes your brain develop more cells and a bigger hippocampus. It helps protect you against memory loss, against cognitive decline.

It’s great for preserving your sense of balance; dancers don’t fall over as they get older and so they stay out of hospital and live longer.

It’s sociable; mostly you dance with other people. And you can practice at home if you want.

It lifts your spirits and stops you from getting depressed.

You live longer, you’re happier, you have more energy, and you make friends.

So, lots of scientific reasons to motivate you to get dancing.

“Exercise is a tribute to the heart.” ~Gene Tunney

What did the scientists miss, though? They missed that it is loads of fun to dance. They missed that this is something that you can really love doing.

They missed that there’s a huge variety of styles, that there’s always something new to learn. Tap, salsa, Zumba, ballet, ballroom, country, barn, folk, Morris, Russian, Hungarian, jazz, modern, line dancing—there’s too many types to list!

They missed out the connection to the music.

Viennese waltzes by Johann Strauss. Musicals from the thirties, and every decade since. Rock music from the Beatles. Jazz by the likes of Charlie Mingus and Take Five by Dave Brubeck. Folk from Bob Dylan and Joan Baez. Pop from Abba. Latin American. Bollywood.

I love sixties music best. What can beat the Rolling Stones’ great hit, “Satisfaction” for a great dance number? Look, the Stones are still out there playing to the crowds. They are still dancing and show few signs of giving it up, for all their age. They look as though they love it.

The scientists missed talking about motivation too. As I was saying, it’s a big issue for exercise, finding the motivation to do it. It’s a big issue for me and loads of people just like me.

So, we need to do something that actually want to do. We need to find ways of making exercise such fun that we’d rather be doing that than anything else.

If the music makes your heart sing, then dancing might be the exercise for you. Even if it just makes your feet tap and gives you a bit of an itchy feeling, dancing could be the way for you to get fit again.

Of course, if you love dancing already, then what’s to stop you?

With winter coming up (in the northern hemisphere), my husband and I have decided to put on one track a day and dance as hard as we can. We want to have fun together, bask in the nostalgia of music from our younger years, and get fit again.

We can’t think of a better way to do it.

Using Your Heart for Motivation to Exercise 

Let’s follow our hearts and our hearts will look after us. We’ll be doing our brains a favor as well. Hearts and brains both love dancing.

Exercise won’t be such a struggle, and we’ll reap the benefits down the years.

Doing exercise right means that we’ll be living our lives right too and the one life we have will be a long, happy, and active one.

Go dance your heart out like the Stones and I’ll see you on the dance floor. I’ll be the one dancing down those long extra years I’ll gain from sticking with the exercise.

About Rosemary Bointon

Having lived in twelve different countries and sailed the Atlantic in her own boat, Rosemary Bointon’s passion is thinking up new adventures and challenges for older people to do NOW, to help them have loads of fun in longer, more fulfilled and active lives. You can find her on and on Twitter at @Agingchallenges.

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  • LossExperiment

    You “came across an article?” What article? Where is your source for the scientific conclusions you claim to be citing in this article? Where is your justification?

  • Pieter

    a quick google will list quite a few of studies. I think the article might be based on the study by Frontiers in Aging Neurosciences.

    The findings match my own experience for what its worth
    I would add that dance can, when one enters into it as a practice (way of being), teach you a lot about yourself and so help in personal development.

  • RosemarySuperager

    Pieter – thanks. Yes it was. And as you say there are lots of other studies too from many different universities around the world.

    I think it’s really interesting that dance seems to affect older people more than other types of exercise.

  • Anya Anne Light

    “Let’s follow our hearts and our hearts will look after us.”

    YES! I couldn’t agree more!

    Thanks for this article. I am passionate about dance being a healing method for anxiety, depression, and trauma. And…now…you’ve helped me see all the other amazing benefits, too! Lots of love to you, Rosemary. I love your adventurous pure spirit! xo

  • Danielle Small

    I love this Rosemary! I was sent this post by a sister teacher of mine, and we both teach a movement practice that I think you would LOVE! It’s called Qoya, and it’s a fun way to build community and have an inner journey experience, all while dancing your heart and body open into your true essence! Find out more info, try some free videos, and best–find a class near you or attend a retreat– all at http://www.Qoya.Love

    Thanks for the article!

  • RosemarySuperager

    Thanks Danielle. I haven’t come across Qoya – always great to find out about something new.

  • RosemarySuperager

    Thank you Anya. I believe there are studies into how dancing and other forms of exercise really can help people who are suffering from depression. Sounds like you know from experience. Keep dancing.

  • THis is a great article and I had to comment. I have also did research on movement and exercise and it really is helpful to keep you feeling better and happier. Thanks for sharing dancing is another great way to stay fit and keep moving. Lori English

  • danceoflife

    A dear friend diagnosed with cancer was inspired by a video I sen her of Deborah Cohen, the nurse who danced with her medical team before her mastectomy to help summon the healing energies of her body. My friend decided to dance before her surgery, too, and in turn inspired a whole group of people all over the US dancing in support of her healing.

  • Kindrick Weatherbee

    Thanks for this! I really think that the maintaining motion on dances can make a great deal of difference! as I have read in the Consumer Health Digest, even the walking motion is a great way to stay fit

  • RosemarySuperager

    Interesting ideas – I hope you find good healing and feeling in 2018

  • RosemarySuperager

    Walking is great exercise and has the advantage of taking you outside into fresh air too. Our need to keep moving is often overlooked as we sit in front of our computer screens.

  • Renessa Bak

    a friend just shared this with me, the reason for the music and now older folks . . we grew up in the nice and easy feeling of the sixties, the baby boomers came into their own they had wheels , guitars the wind blowing in their hair with that nice easy feeling of dancing through the cannot do’s.
    Rosemary, it is a pleasure meeting you , it sounds like you are on the same trip I am. revving up the good times and being a grand old dame at 80. only started dancing after i got a hip and with it packed up my two left feet. .
    music is very age specific. . and youth pics up on the energies of the day. . many more motors sullying the ecstatic static as i like call it. people speak faster, nose to screen, on having fallen silent talking through their finger tips and freeze framing their thoughts on facebook for as long as they last. .
    this said. . lets talk dancing. from totally being froze up and screaming with pain on occasion to investing in used TZone stepper to get my hips moving a rowing machine. . familiar from my youth. . cooked up a turmeric, white willow bark, cinnamon, capsicum and shaga mushrooms simmer in coconut oil, had hemp oil to keep it semi soft in the fridge along with enough maple syrup to sweeten it up . .
    then, 6 months after I was at Crystal Bowl and Gong show, at full moon time, on an amethyst biomat, a month later again, this time with the infra red working as well. .
    I was literally give , springs in my step, a smile on my face and sparkle in my eye.
    then out of the blue got a new friend, played 2 three nights of rock solid dance music , sadly at a bar, . . those childhood memories of avoid even walking by the if you can, pay enough for your soda water and we’re all happy.
    its been an interesting journey. . the whole of it been as yours, never a dull MOMend. picking up where others leave off and take it home.
    home where the music is playing
    home where music is the bridge over troubled water
    interesting you went around the world. remember thinking that on reaching the Pacific the summer of ’73. . brother had been talking doing so. . remember looking up at the stars while neighbor camper spoke of visiting caves the next day .
    “from the stars in your eyes to the caverns of our mind”
    from the mind’s gel in the marrow of our spine
    supercharged by the fiddlers riff, the ZEnergetic surge
    literally lifted us off our feet . . .
    this, my kind of medicine. .
    all my healing has happened to music
    visions of combining garden centers with live music
    people and plants winding up the springs of well being
    we’ll be swinging through a healing in record break time

  • Renessa Bak

    trouble in gyms, its mechanical on stale air, working twice as hard on basically dead of nature’s finest garden scents. . . the very essence of the plant’s medicinal compounds and properties for is to inhale, deplete, as give it back and the plants upping the vibrations that doctor us back to health in record break time. . a playce of joy a playce of fun, and yes, it’s not be so for me without a labyrinth.. . . really ought share that in the Shamanic view of mental illness. most of which is bout having moved and losing the ground beneath your feet, good as living with your finger in a socket and getting zapped. first time? i spotted one? took to it like a duck to water with the coiled copper hula hoop? which i nonchalantly danced about my being on listening to another’s conversation. Stopped short when done,
    wow, was i feeling good from having death wash over me at walking into the concrete war bunkers to me. turned round and walked it again . when i returned the ring his how was it, was cut off by an eye popping “thank you angels”
    That weekend i had Ode to Joy soaring into mind each time i went in for another talk about
    the intuitive technologies. . or dowsing as the old folks call it. . taking the short cut home
    lest. . . so dance on . .