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Dance - an aerobic activity that can help you fight heart disease

From ballroom dancing to hip hop - it's a fun way to get fit

Dance is not for everyone, but for those who love to move to music, it can be a great aerobic activity.

You can choose from activities such as line dancing, Scottish country, jazz, belly, tap, or hip hop that you can participate in individually. I know one doctor who joined an adult tap class. He and a lawyer were the only two males in the class and they had a blast!

As a couple you can take up ballroom, square dancing, Scottish dancing, country & western, and more.

It's a great pursuit for a couple, not just for the smart heart fitness benefits (I’ll get to those in a moment) but also to provide an opportunity to spend some quality time together. We spoke with one couple who have three children aged six years and under, plus they run two businesses, yet they still make time to dance together.

My husband and I have enjoyed ballroom (waltz, foxtrot), latin (tango, rumba, cha cha), swing and jive for years and just recently returned to it after a seven year hiatus. We'd forgotten just how much fun it is. And we do feel we get a good workout.

When we first started, we took it so seriously that we’d often end up fighting. Over time we learned it works out much better if we just laugh and keep going.

(Although my husband has threatened on occasion to wear a mouth guard, helmet, and steel toe boots to class to “protect” himself from me!)

Social dance provides a mild aerobic workout and is a low-impact activity that tones and strengthens calf, thigh, and buttock muscles - and it's a lot more fun than walking on the treadmill. The more fun exercise is, the more likely you are to do it - and to reap the benefits.

It's good to have some variation in your workouts to ensure that your entire body benefits from exercise, so including a session of dance exercise once a week can be a positive and fun addition to your overall fitness program.

The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute endorses ballroom dancing "as a way to lower the risk of coronary heart disease, control blood pressure, reduce weight, and boost HDL cholesterol levels.”

Best of all, it is a smart heart aerobic activity that people of any fitness level or age can enjoy at their own pace. And it’s something you can continue to enjoy for years and years. I know I’m planning to.

How to get started

Many communities offer programs and classes through their recreation programs. You can also check with your local school board or college continuing education programs. Finally, check out dance schools in the yellow pages or on the internet.

As with any addition to an exercise program when you are living with heart disease, it's important to check with your doctor first.

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