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From improving mental health and mood to cardio fitness and weight loss, dancing can provide numerous health benefits — whether you’re a beginner or a pro. Photo by Rebekah Rinehart – KINRGY
  • Emmy Award-winning professional dancer Julianne Hough shares the benefits of dance.
  • Hough explains how “Dancing with the Stars” inspired her to launch an online fitness platform.
  • Experts share the mental and physical benefits of dance, including weight loss.

Julianne Hough danced her way to stardom on ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars.”

While dancing has always been part of her life, in recent years, it has become about more than just the moves.

“I think dance was always my superpower without me realizing it until later on when I started going to therapy regularly and learning more about mental health and anxieties and depression,” she told Healthline.

About 10 years ago, she began researching the benefits of dance on the brain.

“[That’s] when I found out dance is probably one of the best ways to have that true mind/body/soul, mind/body/spirit, mind/body/connection; however you want to describe it,” said Hough.

Julia Basso, PhD, director of the Embodied Brain Laboratory at Virginia Tech, said her research on dance and the brain found that at the behavioral level, dance increases positive, affective states and decreases negative affective states.

“[You’re] increasing your happy experiences, your positive feelings, and decreasing your negative feelings, such as depression, anxiety; things called negative affect,” she told Healthline.

Dance also taps into social and emotional processes and creative and rhythmic aspects.

“So altogether, we’re finding that beyond mental health capacities, it also enhances social health. When people dance and dance with one another, they often feel a social or connectedness to one another,” she said.

She is currently investigating how dancing together affects the brain by recording brain activity in different populations as they dance together, such as professional dancers, people living with disabilities, new moms, elderly living with Alzheimer’s disease, and more.

“While people dance with each other and are moving together and coordinating their physical actions, we can get people in similar brain states…and in essence, that gets folks to attune to each another on the sensory-motor level, which promotes socio-emotional engagements,” Basso said.

To share the benefits of dance with the public, Hough launched the dance and fitness platform KINRGY in 2018. The platform offers classes in dance cardio, fitness, breathwork, meditation, sound healing, and more.

She said the classes and sessions are not about following them perfectly or technically but rather about finding a connection with music, movement, and people.

“[Our] whole philosophy is when you can connect to yourself and dance and really dive into your own authenticity, you can then relate to people around you better. Then when that happens, you can experience the world in a more true and expressive form,” said Hough.

For those who find dancing intimidating, she said the platform’s meditation and breathwork sessions are good places to start. However, she stressed the importance of dance as a personal expression.

“It’s not about doing it right or wrong, good or bad; we’ve created movements designed to have your body move the way it was designed to move or how it wants to move, and it’s about connection to your most authentic self,” she said.

In fact, “Dancing with the Stars” was her biggest motivation for this philosophy.

When working with celebrities, she learned to choreograph dances based on how their body naturally moved rather than forcing them to learn steps outside their comfort zone.

“The best trainers and the best coaches for their celebrity were the ones who would get their partner, and they would be like, ‘let’s just put some music on. Just feel the music and just walk or move around,’” said Hough.

After being repeatedly asked by fans if there was ever going to be a “Dancing with the Stars” for everyday people, Hough decided to create a platform based on how she trained celebrities.

“It’s not about teaching the steps to dance. You get somebody in a position where they can dance and feel confident and sexy and alive and free and not self-conscious, and they can connect with people and connect with themselves, and that’s what KINRGY is about,” she said.

This month, the platform opens its first brick-and-mortar location in West Hollywood in collaboration with Xponential Fitness.

While Hough looks to dance to add value to one’s life rather than simply to lose weight, she said on “Dancing with the Stars,” contestants would lose weight without trying.

“[Because] you’re focusing on your energy, the confidence, the joy, the freedom within your body, and so when that happens, the physical works for you in a way,” she said.

Dance as an activity can help a person burn calories, said Christina Brown, MS, ACSM CPT, nutrition and weight loss coach.

“In order to lose weight, you must be in a calorie deficit, meaning you must be taking in fewer calories than you are expending, or in other words eating fewer calories than you are burning,” she told Healthline.

You can be in a calorie deficit either by eating fewer calories, by burning more calories each day, or by a combination of both.

“Dancing can put you in a calorie deficit due to the calories that you are burning during the time you are dancing. Therefore, it can be helpful in weight loss,” said Brown.

To get an idea of how many calories are burned during 30 minutes of dance for a 150-pound person, see below:

  • Hip hop: 207 calories
  • Swing: 207 calories
  • Ballet: 179 calories
  • Country Western line dancing: 171 calories
  • Tap: 164 calories
  • Salsa: 143 calories
  • Ballroom: 118 calories

If you are planning to add dance to your weight loss plan, Brown recommends the following:

  • Start slow with one dance class per week, especially if you have not been exercising regularly the past several months. Increase classes as you become more fit.
  • Stay hydrated and drink water throughout the day as you will most likely be sweating during the dance class.
  • Warm up properly before each class to get your body ready for the activity.
  • Stretch at the end of the class in order to allow the body to cool down.

“Dancing is a great cardio activity that can help you burn more calories, however, I also recommend doing 2 to 3 days of strength training exercise per week in order to build muscle,” said Brown.

People lose about 3% to 8% of muscle mass each decade starting at the age of 30.

The less muscle you have, the slower your metabolism will be, Brown added.

“Ensuring you don’t lose muscle mass as you age is important to maintaining your weight and not seeing the age-related weight gain that many people do.”