NEW YORK—September 12, 2006
Regardless of gender, generation or income group, more and more people are going to the dance floor for a workout versus a gym, and an exercise physiologist at New York City’s Hospital for Special Surgery - a leading center for sports medicine - thinks she knows why.
“The best exercise program is one that is safe, balanced, promotes fitness and, importantly, one that people will do regularly because they enjoy it,” according to Polly de Mille, exercise physiologist at the Women’s Sports Medicine Center at Hospital for Special Surgery.
“The social aspects of dance help to make it very attractive for an increasing number of people versus, say, an elliptical training machine. Scientific studies are now also telling us that many things make dancing an excellent fitness regimen with attractive benefits,” de Mille said.
Of course, balanced, targeted gym workouts can provide excellent fitness benefits as well, but for some people, the “fun factor” is missing at the gym.
“Those working out in gyms are often plugged into their iPods or their reading material, following their own regimen. Those dancing, however, are often moving in unison, possibly facing one another or touching, and having a communal experience. Connection and cooperation with others is integral to the experience,” she said.
Dance is also very good for balance and posture, according to Beth Shubin Stein, M.D., an assistant attending orthopaedic surgeon in the Women’s Sports Medicine Center at Hospital for Special Surgery who is trained in sports medicine and shoulder surgery.
“Dance is also a great aerobic workout, and it tones many different muscle groups,” Dr. Shubin Stein said.
Popular TV programs like ABC-TV’s “Dancing with the Stars,” which returns for its third season September 12, underscore the romance and passion sometimes involved in dance. De Mille cautions, however, that people need to know their limits and pace themselves before considering some of the acrobatic moves seen on TV.
While dance may not be for everyone (de Mille personally finds regular runs in Central Park to be very calming) and a few precautions need to be kept in mind, she says studies clearly show that the health benefits of dance compared to gym workouts are impressive. Specifically:
De Mille advises people considering dance as fitness therapy to keep three key points in mind:
“From a mind-body perspective, anything you do successfully on the physical end will positively affect your mental and emotional states. Dancers have excellent posture, and just standing a little straighter can have a surprising transfer of power to your next board meeting or challenging conversation,” commented Jenny Susser, Ph.D., a sports psychologist at the Women’s Sports Medicine Center at HSS.
The first of its kind in the United States, the Women’s Sports Medicine Center at HSS is a nationally recognized health resource for active women of all ages and abilities, from eager novices to professional athletes.
Read an ABC News piece on dancing for fitness.