Dancing is not only fun but provides a range of dance health benefits. Dancing at any age is good for you, but involving kids with dance early on supports their physical and mental development and shows them the importance of exercise.
While children jump and twirl and release their boundless energy, they’re also growing, learning and building healthy habits for life. Here are some dance health benefits (and more!) for kids:
From balancing on their toes to raising their arms and even just standing in third position, dance utilizes the entire body and all of its muscle groups. It is an aerobic exercise, which gets the heartbeat going to strengthen the cardiovascular system, increases lung capacity and builds endurance. It also improves flexibility, posture and balance. In addition to these health benefits, dance helps improve coordination and kinesthetic memory, or body awareness, in children. According to Dancescape, moving our bodies to music strengthens the connection between our bodies and our minds by supporting both the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system.
Dancing not only benefits the body, but also the mind. Learning choreography helps children strengthen their cognitive abilities and memory skills. Alternatively, being given the opportunity for free and spontaneous movement aids their problem-solving skills. As the National Dance Education Organization stated:
“Movement provides the cognitive loop between the idea, problem, or intent and the outcome or solution. This teaches an infant, child and, ultimately, adult to function in and understand the world.”
Furthermore, dancing helps children become more comfortable with their bodies and with expressing their ideas and emotions. This body awareness and confidence translates into higher self-esteem. A more positive sense of self helps children deal with emotional issues that they may have, and in turn, teaches them the valuable skill of how to deal with problems and bad feelings constructively.
As children learn to relate to their body movements through dance, they’re also learning to relate to each other. Dance teaches children how to cooperate and work together in groups. By interacting with the instructor, it teaches them how to effectively communicate their needs, opinions and ideas. By learning new skills alongside others, children bond with each other, and begin to understand what it takes to collectively work toward one common goal. Lifelong friendships can be made in dance class, and by becoming more comfortable with expressing themselves through dance, shy children can feel more comfortable coming out of their shells and overcome their anxiety.
By supporting children’s physical and mental development, dance gives children the skills and health benefits they need to grow into healthy adults.
Many people would consider dance a workout in itself. However, in order to be at your best as a dancer, there’s some preparation required off the stage as well. Some dancers appreciate a good workout to help keep them in shape but also to keep their muscles limber and strong. While everyone has a different workout they prefer, some moves are classic, especially barre exercises.
While there are several different types of barre classes dancers can take to keep in shape, Physique 57 is currently one of the best in the business. Several celebrities have tested out this class, including Chrissy Teigen. The classes are modeled off of the Lotte Berk Method, a tried-and-true method created in the ’50s and used by dancers all over the world. If you’re looking to stay toned and lean off stage, use these moves from Physique 57 to help you stay in shape, according to Dance Spirit magazine.
Have you tested out these barre exercises?
1. The Curtsy
This exercise helps work your thighs, improves your balance and tones your core and back. If you’ve ever done ballet, you know this move pretty well. For this exercise you will need a sturdy chair to use for balance. Begin in plie form in first position. Make sure you feel comfortable, not awkward or strained.
Place your hands on the back of the chair and lean the top part of your body forward, keeping your back straight, until you reach a 45-degree angle. Once you’re in this position, lift your right heel off the floor and slide it to your left side behind your body, so that it aligns with your left shoulder.
Slowly begin to lower yourself to the ground, making sure to keep your hips and your shoulders aligned. Begin to do 30 to 60 pulses in this position, and then switch to the other leg. If you really want to test your strength and your muscles, try this position even lower to the ground.
“Barre classes are modeled off the Lotte Berk Method, used by dancers all over the world.”
2. The Deli Slicer
Even though this workout has a funny name, these moves help tone and strengthen the obliques, gluteus maximus and hamstring muscles. Begin lying down on your right side with your arm stretched upward beneath your head.
Place your left palm on the ground near your chest to help keep yourself balanced. Pull your knees toward your chest until you reach a 90-degree angle. Keeping your legs together, lift your feet off the ground with your knees staying on the floor.
From this position, push your left leg outward until it’s straight. Try to reach as far as you can go without straining yourself. Then bring your leg back in, returning to the initial position. Complete this move 15 times slowly, followed by 20 times quickly. Then switch sides. If you think about the motion of your legs, it should look like a deli slicer.
3. The Superwoman
This exercise is great for the core and can help tone your abdominal muscles. You will need a cushion and a ball to perform this move. Begin sitting on the ground. Place some type of cushion – whether it’s a yoga mat or a pillow – behind your lower back for support.
Once it’s in place, start to lower yourself onto it, making sure to keep your arms, head and neck upright. Place your feet on the ball, keeping your toes pointed forward. Make sure your knees are bent at a 90-degree angle and your arms are outstretched forward.
Inhale inward and place your arms overhead so that your body is entirely on top of the cushion and your legs are completely straight, with your feet still resting on the ball. Return to the initial position.
Repeat this process between 30 and 60 times, depending on your strength. Make sure you don’t sit all the way up on the return, as that won’t work your muscles as strongly.
4. The Pretzel
This exercise helps stretch your hips, strengthen your waistline and tone your gluteus maximus. Start this exercise sitting on the ground, with your left leg at a 90-degree angle in front of you and your right leg at a 90-degree angle behind your back. Try to push your right thigh as far back as it’s willing to go. Place your hands on the floor on either side of your left leg to improve stability.
Tighten your core, point your toes and lift your right leg off the floor and move it up and down between 20 and 30 times, keeping the leg bent at 90 degrees.
Then, repeat the position but extend your leg and keep your foot flat for another 20 to 30 repetitions.