Dance Your Way to Better Health
from living well

Ballroom (and Country) dancing isn't just for the stars.  Opportunities abound to get started in this increasingly popular hobby--through a local parks and recreation department, a college or even a private club (an Internet search of "ballroom dancing" and your city could provide surprising results).  Not only is it fun, dancing has also been found to be an all-around healthy thing to do, offering physical, mental and emotional health benefits.

Physical Health
You can burn anywhere from 200 to 400 calories an hour doing a moderate dance like the foxtrot or waltz.  More demanding dances, such as salsa or cha-cha, can offer the same benefits as an intense session at the gym.  Dancing also requires good posture and a firm dance "frame," which builds strength and tones muscles.

Mental Health
Studies have found that dancing can improve cognitive ability. Improvisational partner dancing "requires constant, split-second decision-making," says Richard Powers of Stanford University.  "Because the brain has to work so much, it is not necessarily retracing the same neural pathways, but instead using new ones," a key to fighting memory loss and dementia.

Emotional Health
Exercise helps boost our mood, but an activity like ballroom dancing also encourages us to have fun in a social setting.  It gets our mind off our personal troubles.  "No matter how hard your day is, five or 10 minutes after you've started dancing, you leave everything behind," social dancer Dan Carper told the "Los Angeles Times."