Shake It Off: Why dancing is the elite form of exercise

girl dancing in the kitchen

You can extol the virtues of the gym as much as you like, but for some people (read: me), the gym just sucks. No hate if you love it, and I’m probably incredibly jealous of your strength and general highly motivated vibe, but it’s just not my bag. There seems to be an awful lot of pressure (and especially over lockdown when Chloe Ting & co. were supposedly shredding all of our belly fat in 2 weeks🙄) to get into the gym and doing… gym things. For me, and a lot of other people though, it’s always been hard to be a gym rat because I just don’t enjoy it. I don’t like the atmosphere, I never felt like I knew enough not to make an idiot of myself and the last thing I need when I’m trying to convince myself I’m not tired is to sit on the bike looking at the blank wall in front of me – and I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who feels that way either. It’s not just the gym, things like running have never been my cup of tea, and I realised not too long ago that my problem is that if I’m thinking about how miserable and sweaty and sore I am, I’ll just… stop. So instead, I need something to occupy me while I get moving, which is where dance comes in!

“Oh but I can’t dance I’ll look dumb”

Am I a good dancer? Absolutely not. My sense of coordination often leaves a lot to be desired, my “performance face” can only be described as straight-up-not-having-a-good-time, I don’t have any of the strength that makes a desirable dancer and I’m naturally exceptionally sweaty and red-faced, but when you’re focusing enough on physically getting all the bits of yourself where they need to be at the right time, you just don’t have enough brain power to worry about any of that. Plus, if you’re on your own, what does it matter if you look dumb? Nobody’s watching, and even if they were, you can rest easy knowing that you’d be having more fun than them ✌️

 

Of course, the right atmosphere to be able to properly boogie away your troubles is super important, and I’m not going to tell everyone to run out to their local dance studio or start whipping out pirouettes in the bar while your mate is on the pull (though if you’d like to, get on it babes). The point is that even in the comfort of your own home, a little one-person dance party can be a) super fun and b) super good for you. 

The science-y bit

Obviously, when you dance, whether it’s following along with the Royal Ballet, getting absolutely lit to the One Direction dance party workout, or just bopping along in front of the cooker while you wait for your stir-fry, you’re moving around, you’re on your feet and getting the blood moving around your body. Like any form of full-body exercise, dancing your ass off is going to work out a bunch of different muscle groups, improve your cardiovascular health, get your respiratory system working, get your joints moving and give you those lovely endorphins for a nice mood boost.

 

Interestingly, dance specifically can have a really positive impact on your mental health, particularly if you’re struggling with tension and anxiety. Moving your body, whatever way you want to, can actually emulate our body’s natural regulatory response to calm you down and help you physically and mentally “reset”. Everyone’s favourite TikTok therapist, Dr. Janine Kreft, explains it better than I can (she has a BFA in Dance and a PsyD in Clinical Psychology, I’m just some fool with an internet connection and a bunch of Spotify playlists):

 

@kreftscouch

#traumahealing #shakeitoff #kreftscouchdances

♬ original sound – Dr. Janine Kreft PsyD

Other reasons you should be waltzing around your living room

Dance is super accessible!. You don’t need any equipment, you don’t have to pay for a membership, you don’t even need any workout clothes – your PJs will do the job very nicely if that’s what you want to do! While I love dancing in a class as much as I do in the shower, you don’t need to find a studio or take classes to get the full benefits of shaking it. No matter what shape, size or fitness level you’re at, there’s a way for you to dance and get yourself moving. The NHS recommends you’re physically active every day, no matter what kind of activity it is (Bonus: if, for example, you’re really not feeling it, have mobility issues or are multitasking, you can even dance sitting down – don’t tell the gym bros I said so!). Ideally, we should all be aiming for at least 2.5 hours of “moderate intensity activity” every week, so the easier it is to actually get your heart pumping, the better! Plus, especially when there’s no audience, there’s no pressure to look a certain way or do something with a specific technique – you can literally just move however you feel it!

 

Also, there’s a reason that nearly everyone works out to music, and that’s because it’s more fun that way! So surely incorporating music even more into your workout can only make it better? That’s what I’d argue, at least.

 

So to conclude, the next time you’re dreading heading off to the gym, are standing about waiting for your pasta to boil or are sat there feeling antsy, get on your feet, turn the volume up, and in the words of our one true messiah, Ms. Swift: