Let’s Get Physical: Dancing to Support Family Fitness at Home

Millions of families are adjusting to a new normal of stay-at-home life. COVID-19 has changed how we learn and work and interrupted our routines for recreation and leisure time, too. For adults, gyms and fitness centers are closed. Children and youth are missing out on physical education, recess and after-school sports and activities. In many communities, parks, playgrounds and other public spaces are also off-limits. These changes may hit urban dwellers particularly hard, as they struggle to stay active in limited square footage.

The net result is that the entire family is more likely to be sedentary during this time, and sedentary lifestyles are harmful to health, associated with higher rates of heart disease, diabetes and obesity. In fact, young people gain weight twice as fast during the summer when schools are closed as they do during the school year. Physical activity is also strongly associated with better mental health.

For these reasons, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that children have 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity each day and that adults do 150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week. While we’ve seen some dedicated marathoners marking their 26.2 miles in tight spaces, dancing is a more entertaining and attainable way for the whole family to get in their daily steps at home.

Why Dance Is a Full Body Workout

Involving movement in all directions, dance is a total body workout that builds muscle tone and bone strength and improves heart health. In older adults, dancing has also been found to improve flexibility, endurance, and balance, which is important for preventing falls and preventing the onset of frailty.

Amongst the arts, dance is a double dose of good medicine, harnessing the healing benefits of both music and movement all at once. Because music is rhythmic, it helps sync our movements and brains to the beat. This may improve our workouts by increasing the accuracy of our movements and our ability to learn new moves.  Music used during exercise is also physically invigorating, improving how efficiently we move our bodies and the amount of exercise we pack in per session.  And music is known to improve mood and reduce perceived exertion during exercise.

This combination of movement and music makes dance really enjoyable, which may be why there is evidence that it’s easier to keep up than other exercise routines. In one survey of recreational dancers, mood enhancement was the main reason for dancing, followed by socializing and escapism. So, blast some tunes and get moving to the beat. Your body and brain will thank you for it.

How to Get Started with Dancing at Home

You don’t have to have any rhythm to enjoy the benefits of dancing.  Living in lockdown lets us experiment with dance from the privacy of our own homes.  Of course, dancing is often more fun in groups so we encourage you to get the whole family involved.

Try your hand at modern dance or channel your inner Fosse with online classes:

Show off your freestyle moves with a virtual dance party:

Host your own family dance-off:

This is article is a part of IAM Lab’s regularly updated COVID-19 NeuroArts Field Guide. Be sure to check the Guide for the latest, evidence-based tips on how the arts can support our wellbeing during the pandemic.

We would also like to hear from you: Are you, your loved ones or colleagues dealing with specific issues and want to learn more about art-based solutions?  Are you already using the arts to help you cope?   

Please share your thoughts, ideas and concerns with us at covid19arts@artsandmindlab.org.  Be well and stay safe.

Lead Image: Eugenio Marongiu / Shutterstock

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