Updated 07 February 2014

Ballroom dance your way to fitness

You don’t need to be super-slick or ultra-trim to be able to dance. You just need to be ready and willing.

You don’t need to be super-slick or ultra-trim to be able to dance. You just need to be ready and willing. After a few sessions the steps will start coming automatically – and so will the fitness rewards.

Health benefits of dancing

Dancing helps you stand tall and it spontaneously pulls your spine up straight. Walking upright eventually becomes a habit.


This is essential when you’re performing dance moves.

A good hour-long dance session can push your heart rate up to 120 beats per minute – the same as aerobic exercise. You’ll burn more or less the same amount of kilojoules when you walk briskly for 5km.

The exertion dance demands of your muscles helps to tone your arms and legs. Over time you’ll see your upper arms, calves and thighs firm up.  

Graceful dance moves keep bones strong without putting unnecessary strain on the joints. Dance promotes bone density and therefore helps to prevent osteoporosis.


Dancing for or with people boosts self-confidence. Few of us wouldn’t be proud of performing a faultless tango!

Body and soul
Many studies have investigated the therapeutic and meditative effects of dance on the body. According to psychologist Dr Melléta Louw, “The combination of music and movement brings your body and soul together in a world that often puts too much emphasis on the external world.”

The style: Think graceful – but only once you've learnt the steps. Traditionally ballroom dance was for the upper classes while the peasants indulged in so-called folk dancing. Nowadays, however, ballroom dance may refer to just about any kind of partner dancing.  

The International Standard Ballroom Dances are: Waltz, Tango, Viennese Waltz, Foxtrot and Quickstep. The International Latin Dances are Samba, Cha-cha-cha, Rumba, Paso Doble and Jive.

The waltz dates from as early as the 1700s, while most of the others, with the exception of the tango, were developed in the 1900s as elegant diversions for aristocrats.

The challenge factor: It's quite tricky initially because there's just so much technical detail. Don't expect to be instantly gliding over the dance floor like a swan. But with enough practice you'll move confidently past the ugly-duckling phase within six weeks. Just make sure your partner is as enthusiastic as you are because you have to work closely together.

Why it's good for you: Ballroom dancing improves co-ordination and your sense of rhythm because the steps have to be performed at a fast pace. You'll burn up to 1 380kJ an hour.

Ballroom is especially good for your back muscles. It's also good for your self-image.

Celebrity ballroom dancers: HHP, Renée Zellweger, Toni Braxton, Richard Gere, Jane Seymour, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Denise Richards and Belinda Carlisle.

Check your dance teacher's qualifications. Also make sure you tell him or her if you have any injuries or health problems so your dance moves can be adapted appropriately. And listen to your body – take a break when you're tired and don't try to force yourself into positions you're not used to.

Picture: Ballroom dancing from Shutterstock

Read more:
Dance yourself fit
Get fit by dancing


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