The reality of Friday night down at the local Ritzy doesn’t sound entirely welcoming to my ears right now, but it wasn’t always like that. True, it may not always have been pretty, but those longed-for weekend days where we worked out the basics of social interaction can hold a special place in our memories – provided that’s where they stay carefully locked away.
And one of the things I remember from those days is the simple pleasure of dancing. OK, so I wouldn’t necessarily want to shake and pogo through the night in a sweaty night club now, but perhaps there’s a lesson to be learned from those carefree times in rediscovering the pure pleasure of moving our bodies in time to the beat. Simple pleasures? With some sports, you need all the kit – at least that’s what I tell my partner. Golf clubs, bikes, tennis rackets; it all adds up. And of course with some sports you are rather limited by the climate – or by needing 21 other like-minded people to play with. But sometimes you don’t need any of these things.
With the recent emphasis on dancing taking over the airwaves, it seems like dance fever has gripped the nation. And it’s hard to avoid the stories about how hardworking celebrities have shed several stone while cha-cha-cha-ing on BBC One’s Strictly Come Dancing – especially if you have been co-opted into fandom like me. Meanwhile, shows such as So You Think You Can Dance and Britain’s Got Talent have highlighted the sheer diversity of styles – and the athleticism of their practitioners. As a man, I initially felt that there was a slight stigma to putting on my dancing shoes – at least while sober. But the good news is that now there are so many options. I was able to dance in the relative safety of my own home by playing one of the many dance computer games available for the Xbox 360’s motion-sensing Kinect device, which tracks body movements. From there it was just a quick step to trying out ballroom dancing with my partner, who was smitten with the ‘Strictly…’ glitz. If that’s not for you, then many sports clubs will operate their own classes with teachers. But if you’re serious about dance, it may make sense to search out a dance school.
The Zumba sensation ref=nofollow> is a popular fitness crossover dance, while salsa offers the opportunity to bring South American spice to partner dancing. But these are not the only options; for traditionalists there are ballet and tap, while for those of a more urban orientation, there is the eye-catching variation on street dance, which brings the attitude and moves of the music video into real life. How good is it? As with any exercise, you only get out what you put in. If you keep up a level where you heart is beating briskly, then it can be good cardiovascular exercise. This has many health benefits, including lowering the likelihood of having a heart attack or developing diabetes.
On a more aesthetic level, it is estimated that a decent level of aerobic dancing can burn the better part of 400 calories for someone weighing only around 9.5 stone, meaning there is good potential for incorporating dancing into a weight-loss programme. For people who are rather bigger – myself included – the great news is that you’ll burn off a good deal more calories. Meanwhile, as dancing is a load-bearing exercise, it can build stronger bones fine news for us as we age – and there are even suggestions that those who practice ballroom dancing have a lower risk of developing dementia. So taking up regular dancing can be a great way to lead a healthier lifestyle and may even help increase longevity. And as part of your long-term planning for your family’s health and welfare you should also consider a life insurance policy.
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