tango dancers' feet

As an adult, the thought of jumping into a dance class can be daunting. What if you forget the steps or find out that you don't have the best coordination? And the thought of maneuvering yourself into a leotard makes you a little queasy. The good news? None of these fears are warranted. Dance has become an accessible form of exercise for all ages and fitness levels, and its benefits are diverse. Here are a few examples of how taking up dance as an adult can improve both your physical and mental fitness.

Strength, Flexibility, and Balance
Most dance classes begin with basic warmups designed to simultaneously stretch and strengthen the body, while improving alignment and stability. The result is an improvement in balance, posture and coordination that can help to prevent falls and excessive joint and muscle stiffness later in life. Dance-specific stretches are also an excellent way to release the hip flexors and alleviate lower back pain that often results from long hours of sitting in front of a computer or behind the wheel of a car. Most forms of dance also stretch the hands and feet, counteracting the tension placed in these areas when we type and force our feet into fancy shoes.

Bone Health
The National Osteoporosis Foundation has identified dance as a weight-bearing exercise that can effectively reduce a person's risk of developing osteoporosis. Most forms of dance involve multi-planar movement and some form of jumping or weight transference, which can improve joint flexibility and increase bone density.

Cardiovascular Conditioning
From basic ballet to speedy salsa, dance gives your heart an amazing workout. Since dance classes involve short (usually 1-3 minutes) bursts of intense movement alternated with 5-10 minute intervals of slow movement, it's a great form of interval exercise, which has been cited as a great way to strengthen the cardiovascular system and promote weight loss.

Memory Enhancement
As we age, the brain's ability to grow and adapt to new experiences gradually declines. However, studies have shown that a combination of physical, sensory, and social experiences can improve brain function, and reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease and dementia. Dance is an excellent blend of all three types of brain-boosting stimuli, and has the potential to keep the mind alert and memory strong.

Stress Relief
In addition to the release of physical stress through movement and breathing, dance also helps to reduce psychological stress. To process, remember, and perform the steps introduced during a dance class, the mind is forced to focus on what is being taught, rather than the problems and obligations with which it's usually preoccupied. This temporary distraction from everyday stressors is often just what is needed to clear one's head and truly relax.

Quality Time
There are many dance classes designed for parents and grandparents to learn and perform with their children and grandchildren. It's an active way to reconnect with your child, while showing them that it's okay to make mistakes while learning new skills. You're there to encourage each other, laugh through missteps, and smile at new successes. It's also an activity you can practice at home that encourages regular movement and exercise.

Social Dance
If you're jumping back into the dating world or just looking to make a few new friends, social dance is a great way meet people. Most social dance classes (such as salsa and swing) require students to rotate dance partners during class. This improves your dancing by requiring you to learn to adapt to various partners' styles, and also gives you the chance to meet everyone in the class.

Confidence
Learning a new skill is a great way to boost confidence, especially if it's something that has taken you out of your comfort zone. For most people, walking into their first dance class (especially as an adult) is a humbling experience. However, once you master your first combination or polish a pirouette, the sense of accomplishment, pride and excitement is overwhelming.

Move through life gracefully. Sign up for a dance class, improve your health, and give your brain something joyous to think about.