Add Fun And Flare To Your Diabetes Care: Ballroom Dancing

It is seldom thought of as exercise, but ballroom dancing is a fun and challenging social activity that raises our heart rate, and burns plenty of calories.

In ballroom dancing, couples move to music using step-patterns and rhythms in sync with the character of a song. There are two primary types of ballroom dance:

  • The Smooth Ballroom style includes dances that flow around the entire dance floor, and are characterized by smooth transitions from pattern to pattern. Examples are the Waltz, Foxtrot, Tango, and Quickstep.
  • The Latin/Rhythm style includes energetic dances that take place in one area of the dance floor, and mirror the music’s syncopated rhythms. Examples are Swing, Cha Cha, Salsa, Samba, Disco, and Rumba.

Most people take group classes to learn the basic ballroom step-patterns. After just two or three sessions, most are ready to start exercising, and have fun by putting what they’ve learned to music.

Dancing and Diabetes

All exercise, including ballroom dancing, helps those with diabetes lower their blood sugar, improve insulin sensitivity, and protect their cardiovascular health. Dancing also enhances muscle tone, balance, flexibility, energy, and mood.

  • Strength. Because a dancer’s muscles must resist body weight they become toned and strengthened—particularly in the core and lower body. This type of activity also helps muscles absorb and utilize glucose.
  • Flexibility and Balance. Many ballroom dance moves require stretching and bending, so people generally improve their flexibility and balance the more they dance. Most ballroom classes begin with several stretching exercises to help the body move with more ease, and protect against injury.
  • Endurance. When our muscles work harder for longer periods of time without tiring, we have increased our endurance. Building endurance through dance - along with flexibility and strength - helps us accomplish everyday tasks with greater ease, and less fatigue.
  • Mood. Exercise is good for our mood, and so is social activity. Having a good time with others contributes to a positive self-image and a greater optimism. It can help dispel the stress of daily managing diabetes, and other life challenges.

It is telling that people who ballroom dance for many years generally enjoy good mobility and flexibility into their senior years, and learning new dance patterns keeps the mind sharp as well.

Benefits All Fitness Levels

When first starting to ballroom dance the exercise benefits are minimal, but as the patterns and movements are learned and set to music they become a cardiovascular workout that requires muscle and movement control.

The aspect of ballroom dancing that makes it such a good exercise and health program is you're maintaining a good posture, stretching your body, standing up as good as you can. While you're doing a [box pattern] you're not just moving your body, you’re controlling your muscle movement to get the right body movement. And these muscle groups, the way you're controlling them, are working much harder than they would work if you were just walking. ~ Jim Williams, ballroom dancer and instructor

Although it can be intense exercise, ballroom dancing may be done at any fitness level, and it requires no special skill. Not all of us will glide or shimmy our way across a dance floor like the pros, but we can reap the benefits of moving our feet to music.

Sources: FitDay; USA Today; The Dance Space
Photo credit: TwistedNerve

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