If you own an activity tracker, you may well have started to become strangely obsessed with how many steps you take a day. Hitting that 10,000 can feel like a real achievement, but is it really enough to keep you fit and healthy? We are going to tell you why taking up dancing is something that you really should be adding to your routine if you want to boost your fitness and lower your risk of health problems.
Why you should be walking
Walking is great exercise, and it can have some really important benefits for your mental and physical health. There is a very good reason why there has been such a focus in recent years on the number of steps that you take a day! When we’re talking about walking for exercise, it’s important to remember that we’re talking about a brisk walk and not a stroll. The difference is important because only a brisk stroll will give you the health benefits of cardiovascular exercise. As a rule of thumb, you are walking fast enough if you can talk comfortably but can’t sing.
1) Walking burns calories
You can burn around 180-230 calories an hour, walking at a brisk pace. So if your goal is to lose weight, then walking can help with that. The more calories you burn, the bigger your deficit between the number of calories you eat and the number you burn, and the more weight you will lose (along with a healthy diet).
2) Walking is good for your heart
Any aerobic exercise will help to improve your heart health. Brisk walking does raise your heart rate and this will help to lower your risk of cardiovascular disease. Exercise improves your heart health in a number of different ways. It lowers your cholesterol and blood pressure, and it also trains the muscle that is your heart to pump blood out more efficiently. This lowers your resting heart rate, putting less strain on your heart.
3) Walking is good for your joints
Walking is low impact and it strengthens the muscles in your legs. This muscle strengthening means that your joints are better supported and stabilized by the muscle that surrounds them, which lowers the risk of them getting injured.
4) Walking makes you happy
Walking outside can help to lower your symptoms of anxiety, depression, and stress, and can boost your mood. There are a few reasons for this:
- Cardiovascular exercise releases endorphins
- Being in nature lowers your anxiety and stress
- Seeing other people can help to lower your risk of depression
5) Walking tones your legs
If you want to have some nice definition in your legs, walking can definitely help. When you go for a walk, you are using all of the muscles in your lower body, including your quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteals, calves, and ankles. You probably aren’t going to build the muscles in your legs to a great extent, but you should still see some extra definition.
Is walking enough?
The short answer is no, walking isn’t going to be enough for you to get all of the health benefits that you can from exercise. While it is advised that you take 10,000 steps a day, what many people often miss is that alongside that you are also advised to take part in balance and strengthening exercise twice a week.
Poor muscle strength is common, especially as we get older. This poor muscle strength doesn’t just mean that we don’t look our best, it can also increase our risk of fall and injury. There are a few different strength and balancing exercise types you could do, from yoga to resistance training, but one of the exercise types that consistently comes out on top is dancing.
Dancing is a perfect exercise to choose because it is very effective and building your muscle strength, improving your balance and flexibility, and it is also an aerobic exercise. It really is the whole package! Let’s take a look at how adding dancing to your exercise routine can boost your health more than just walking.
Why you should be dancing
1) Dancing burns more calories than walking
There are all sorts of different types of dancing, and some of them are more intense and burn more calories than others. Whichever one you choose, however, you are likely to burn more calories than you would by walking. For example:
- Salsa – 400 calories per hour
- Swing – 550-600 calories per hour
- Ballet – 360-450 calories per hour
- Zumba – 300-550 calories per hour
When you compare all of these to the 180-230 calories per hour you can burn by walking, you can see that dancing is a much more efficient way of burning calories. This is important if you are trying to burn fat and lose weight because you will want to make your calorie burn as efficient as possible.
2) Dancing is more likely to raise your heart rate
Not all aerobic exercise is created equally when it comes to heart health. For you to get the maximum health benefits for your heart, you need to aim to get your heart rate into something called the target heart rate zone. This zone is the sweet spot where your heart is working hard enough to train it but isn’t being pushed too far.
Your target heart rate zone is between 50% and 85% of your maximum safe heart rate. Your maximum heart rate varies by age, and you can calculate it by subtracting your age from 220. Then you need to work out what 50-85% of that maximum heart rate is to get your target heart rate.
For example, a 20-year-old will have a maximum heart rate of around 200 bpm (beats per minute) and a target heart rate of 100-170 bpm. A 50-year-old will have a maximum heart rate of 170 and a target heart rate of 85-145 bpm.
Brisk walking can raise your heart rate but it can be difficult to get it into your target heart rate zone through walking alone. Because of the big movements and fast pace of dancing, you are able to get into your target heart rate zone much more easily, and stay there for longer.
3) Dancing is good for your joints and helps to prevent injuries
Just like walking, dancing doesn’t put a huge amount of strain on any individual joint because the movements you make while dancing are so varied. Because it is a more intense exercise than walking, dancing is also more efficient at building the muscle that supports and stabilizes your joints.
Remember that dancing is considered a strength and balance exercise. Building your muscle strength and improving your balance, as well as your flexibility and your coordination, will lower your risk of falling or injuring yourself.
4) Dancing makes you even happier
Just like with walking, dancing boosts your “happy hormones”, such as endorphins. Again, however, because dancing is a more intense cardiovascular exercise, your body will release more of these hormones, which should give you an even stronger mood boost. Dancing also tends to have a stronger social component than walking, where you dance together in a group to music, which can really cement social bonds.
The music element of dancing also has mood-boosting elements on its own, which are multiplied when combined with coordinated movements. And the sense of achievement and learning new skills that you get when dancing have their own anxiety and depression-reducing effects.
5) Dancing tones pretty much everything
There is a reason why people talk about a “dancer’s body”, and it is because people who regularly take part in dance tend to have slim, lean bodies with all-over muscle definition. Dancing is a strength-building exercise, as well as a cardiovascular one. So when you take part in dance regularly, you will both lose fat and gain muscle. These elements combined will give you that toned and healthy look.
Compared to walking, dancing is again much more efficient at building muscle because it is a higher-intensity strength-building exercise. It also targets more muscle groups because you make such a big variety of movements.
- Hip flexors
- Arms and shoulders
While walking only really targets the muscles from your glutes down, dancing targets those muscles as well as everything above that. So, you won’t only get toned legs, you will also get a toned stomach and arms.
The fact that dancing targets your back and core will also improve your posture and help you to stand up straight and tall, which on its own can do wonders for how your body feels and looks. It will also lower your risk of suffering from back pain.
Dancing vs walking – final thoughts
Walking more should be on everyone’s to-do list, and it does have plenty of benefits. But, as we have shown, walking on its own will only get you so far. If you want to improve your fitness, lower your risk of disease and injury, feel better, and look good, dancing is the perfect exercise to add to your routine. And it’s fun!
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