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Dance your way to good health

Dancing is  a feel good way to improve your fitness, whatever style you choose. Given the unique combination of physical exercise, social interaction and mental concentration-all set to music- its no wonder it has been found to help relieve stress, increase energy and improve strength and muscle tone.

Research into the benefits of dancing is starting to mount up-so choose your favourite style and see the changes for yourself.

TANGO
This sensual and fast moving dance from Buenos Aires, Argentina, is set to energetic, repetitive music and the male takes the lead around the floor.

Body Benefits.
“The tango is a low dance- your knees are constantly bent so you getting a great workout in your legs and core”, says Chris Dempsey, manager of Arthur Murray Dance School in Sydney. “But the short, staccato movements that teach control, balance and body awareness are unique to tango.”

The proof.
Canadian researches studied two elderly groups: one took weekly Argentine tango classes and the other group walked. The tango group showed improvement in balance, posture and motor coordination, as well as performing significantly better at multi-tasking.
And it seems the feel good factor is genuine. A recent Australian National University study revealed tango’s effect on mood disorders. it found reduced feelings of depression and insomnia that lasted for months after the study finished.

BALLROOM (General)
There are enough different types of ballroom dancing to suit every personality-the waltz is singled out below for its own particular benefits.

Body Benefits.
“Ballroom gives you a great all-over cardio workout,where you use your own body weight, similar to what you’d get from an intensive Pilates class, “Dempsey says. “You spend a lot of time bending low and using your legs to push up onto your toes. So its an especially good workout for legs and buttocks.”

The Proof
Dr Joe Verghese, a neurologist at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, conducted a study on 469 men and women. Over five years he studied ways of staying active to reduce the risk of dementia and found ballroom dancing to be the most effective physical activity. The main reasons Verghese gave were that the “requirements of ballroom dancing, such as remembering the steps, moving in precise time to the music and adapting to the movements of one’s partner are mentally demanding exercises.”

WALTZ
“It may look easy, but the waltz is not a cinch to master. During the American Waltz, you transfer one foot to another 90 times a minute. And the Viennese waltz is twice as fast, one of the most difficult to master, Dempsey says.

Body Benefits.
“I use the waltz with beginners to teach control-there’s a lot of spinning and partner work- and to improve posture”, Dempsey says.  Apparently it takes a lot of hard work to learn to look that effortless.
“Ladies aren’t resting their arms on their partners’-they’re holding them, he says. This means strong, lean arms and shoulders.
“The waltz is also great for all over body and brain work, including memory.”

The Proof
A study presented at the American Heart Association researched 110 heart failure patients found that dancing the waltz three times a week for 8 weeks improved cardiopulmonary (heart and lung) function as effectively as spending the same amount of time on a treadmill or bicycle.

SALSA
Its flirtatious, fast and a fusion of dance styles originating from the Caribbean and Latin and North America. Salsa can be danced solo, buts its mostly done in couples.

Body Benefits
“Like most dances, the salsa works your core, toning abdominals and promoting a stronger, healthier lower back”, Dempsey says. “But in the salsa, you’re also shaking your hips fast. So you don’t just get  flat abs, you get boxer’s abs. “You need to be aware of how your holding yourself while dancing the salsa,” he says.”You lean forward and there are a lot of spins, which require you to have great posture and coordination. ‘If you dont you fall over.”

The proof
Salsa is a real source of happy endorphins, according to a study from the University Of Derby in the UK. Moderately depressed volunteers who took lessons for nine weeks reported a significant  boost to their mood by the end.

Matt Birks, the university’s senior lecturer in mental health, says the change in mood may have been further enhanced by “Social interaction, shared experience, concentrating on learning a  new skill and the confidence this can bring.”

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