It’s a Friday night, and your girls’ night out has turned into a dance extravaganza. If you wake up the next day wondering just what kind of a workout you got, don't be confused, as there are many types of dancing. Certain kinds of structured dance can be both aerobic and anaerobic -- busting a move at a club, however, is likely just aerobic.
According to the Mayo Clinic website, dance can count toward your 150-minute per week aerobic exercise goal. Most forms of dance keep you constantly moving for long periods of time, elevating your heart rate and bringing oxygen to your heart. Other exercises that are aerobic, or “of oxygen,” as the term means, include walking, swimming or running. Dance styles that include lots of jumping or turning, like tap dance or salsa, are vigorous aerobic exercise – the CDC says you need only 75 minutes per week of this level of aerobic activity. Any form of aerobic activity, including dance, needs to be done for at least 10 minutes at a time to reap any health rewards.
Anaerobic, or “without oxygen,” exercise strengthens muscle groups. Unlike running or walking, dancing doesn’t repeat the same motion over and over. In fact, some dance steps are anaerobic in nature -- plies in ballet are similar to squats, and most jazz classes include crunches. The CDC recommends muscle-strengthening workouts, which are anaerobic, at least two days a week. While most of the anaerobic workout from dance targets your legs or core, hip-hop dance uses handstands as the base of many moves and can tone your arms. Male ballet dancers also often get an anaerobic workout when they lift ballerinas in partner work.
Learning to Dance
Nearly every culture in the world has developed their own style of dance, giving you a variety of choices. You even have choice in how you learn to dance -- you can go to classes, buy instructional DVDs for your home or just have a dance party with friends. If you are spending more time in class standing and watching an instructor demonstrate than actually moving, however, you aren’t getting an aerobic workout. According to the Cleveland Clinic, there is no best form of aerobic exercise -- you just have to enjoy doing it. Find the style of dance that excites you most, and you'll be pushing yourself harder at each class.
As an aerobic exercise, dance can increase your levels of “good” cholesterol and decrease your risk of heart disease. According to the Cleveland Clinic, it can also improve your lung function and lower your blood pressure. Aerobic exercise is the best choice for weight loss, as it is efficient for burning fat. Anaerobic exercise from dance, however, builds muscle mass, which pound-for-pound burns more calories at rest than fat. As you age, your muscles begin to deteriorate -- aerobic exercise, including some dance steps, can help slow that process.
Kelly MacGregor holds bachelor's degrees in news-editorial journalism and ecology/evolutionary biology from the University of Colorado at Boulder. In addition to writing for the "Colorado Engineer Magazine," the "Boulder Daily Camera" and EdNews Parent, MacGregor's work has been picked up by the "Colorado Daily," EdNews Colorado and the "Denver Post."