Danza Contemporanéa de Cuba. Photo by Quinn Wharton

Yup, Dance Is The Best Workout. Science Says So.

We already know that dancing is basically the greatest thing you could do for yourself. (Even if, ahem, your feet end up without toenails during sandal season.)

But it's always great when science proves us right.


A small study out of the University of Brighton in the UK shows that dancing burns about 600 calories per hour, which is about the same or more than going for a swim or a run for the same amount of time. Of course, an hour of grand allegro is going to push your body much harder than an hour of your grandfather's two-step. But researchers say that even tamer styles of dance can burn about the same number of calories as cycling.

Pennsylvania Ballet's Adrianna de Svastich. Photo by Jim Lafferty.

Nick Smeeton, a coauthor of the report, told Time magazine that all the changes of directions, accelerating and decelerating, and stopping and starting challenges your body in a way that a straightforward run around the park never will. You can't just coast by on momentum when you're dancing. And more of the little support muscles get activated—and strengthened—because your body moves in so many different ways.

But let's not forget that dance is worth much more than calorie burn and muscle building. Research has also shown that it improves mood, lowers stress, boosts energy, curbs anxiety, slows cognitive decline, increases confidence—we could go on and on.

Let's just say, dance for the win!

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Charlene Gehm MacDougal as Lead Nursemaid in Petrushka. Photo by Herbert Migdoll, courtesy the MacDougal family.

In Memoriam: Joffrey Dancer Charlene Gehm MacDougal, 69

Former lead dancer with The Joffrey Ballet, Charlene Gehm MacDougal died of ovarian cancer on January 10 at her home in New York City, age 69.

Gehm illuminated the inner life of each of the varied characters in her extensive repertoire. Whether she was the gracious hostess in George Balanchine's Cotillon, the riveting Lady Capulet in John Cranko's Romeo and Juliet, or in the tumult of William Forsythe's Love Songs, she drew the viewer's eye and heart to the essence of the role.

As Forsythe puts it: "Charlene was certainly one of the most elegant dancers I have had the privilege to work with. Her striking countenance flowed into her work and, joined with her wicked sense of humor and intelligence, created thoughtful, mesmerizing and memorable art."

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February 2021