Many cringe when asked if they like to dance. “I’m a terrible dancer,” they’ll say. Or, “The last time I danced was at my wedding.”
But there are many kinds of dancing, from ballroom to Zumba, and they’re all good for your health. Studies show that dancing not only burns calories, improves coordination, strength, flexibility, balance, and coordination, but it can also help increase pain tolerance, a sense of well-being, and maybe even make you smarter.
IT FEELS GOOD
As reported on NPR’s Morning Edition in May, psychology researchers at the University of Oxford published a study in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior where volunteers were placed in groups of four, given headphones so they could hear music, and taught dance moves. Others were taught different moves. The volunteers who danced together to the same songs felt less pain when their arms were squeezed with a blood-pressure cuff than those who danced by themselves even though there were other others in the room.
Researchers say that when experiences are pleasurable, it’s often a signal they have served an evolutionary purpose, and perhaps why synchronized dancing is a part of almost every culture.
Shonna Chiles, a dance exercise instructor who teaches fun hip-hop and other pop-inspired classes around the city, has been dancing since she was 3 and started her company, ConfiDance Fitness (confidancefitness.com/) as a way for nondancers to build self-confidence. “I tell my clients that all you need to dance is a love for dance.”
GET YOUR GROOVE ON
Research presented by the American Heart Association’s Epidemiology/Lifestyle 2016 Scientific Sessions found that people who took a dance class improved their fitness three times more than nondancers. And a 21-year study of seniors 75 and older led by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine that was funded by the National Institute on Aging found that dancing increases cognitive acuity at any age.
Great, you may be thinking, but dancing still’s not my thing.
While traditional ballroom dance classes like waltz, foxtrot, tango, rumba, and samba are taught at dance studios over the city, dance exercise classes can be found at gyms and exercise studios. Whether you’ve never taken a dance class or you’re a retired ballerina, you’ll find something to get your feet moving and keep your spirits high.
DANCE AROUND TOWN
Here are just some of the facilities offering dance exercise classes in San Francisco. Some require gym membership, but others are sold singly or in packages. For most, you just need a pair of good cross trainers or other exercise shoes.
Studio Mix: There are several upbeat classes including Baby Boom, which features contemporary choreography to push and build endurance while shaking and shimmying to the music. Hip-hop Core is a cardio-dance class that combines easy-to-follow routines with free weights and other equipment along with core work for a total body workout. Other classes include Hot Choreo, a fast-paced dance classes taught to pop music, and Latin-inspired Zumba (studiomix.com/).
YMCA: All branches offer a variety of dance exercise classes. In addition to Zumba and adult ballet classes (ballet is excellent for toning, strength, and balance), the Richmond Y has a line dance class choreographed to different music with repeating steps performed in unison, challenging the body and mind to memorize the sequences. And Danceworks (Richmond and Presidio branches) features a mix of hip hop, Cajun, Celtic, Latin, and African dance in a cardio class that even beginners can follow. Other branches offer salsa workouts; international dance; urban dance; the Bollywood-inspired BollyX, and more (ymcasf.org/).
Jewish Community Center (JCC): Find a daily roster of dance-related group exercise classes, including Zumba and Zumba Gold (a slower-paced class geared for older adults); a beginning hip-hop class; NIA (a dynamic blend of Tai Chi, Aikido, modern dance and other moves); Dance Fusion (ballet, jazz, and hip-hop choreography); and a ballet training class (jccsf.org/).
24 Hour Fitness Sport: Members can try Hustle (hip-hop/dance combo); Hip Hop; or Funk (high-energy workout to mimic nightclub moves and set to the latest dance grooves); and Zumba (24hourfitness.com/Website/Club/502).
Pascale Leroy Ballet Center: Leroy, a dancer in France and with the San Francisco Ballet, where she was also a faculty member for 20 years, teaches adult classical ballet (pascaleleroyballetcenter.com).
ODC: This organization offers a wide variety of dance classes including ballet; tap; belly dance (beginning); and Rhythm and Motion Dance Workout, a dance-based class founded in 1979 by dancer-choreographer Consuelo Faust and musically driven by well-known Bay Area dancers, choreographers, and performers that fuse hip hop, jazz, African, and modern Latin (odc.org).
So grab and pal, and put on those dancing shoes!