If there’s anything Dancing with the Stars has taught us, it’s that dancing really can transform your body for the better—and some D-list celebrities were better left forgotten! It’s easy to see how salsa dancing can improve your endurance, resting heart rate, coordination, flexibility and muscle tone. After all, one hour of dancing burns about 400 calories per hour for a 150-pound dancer, and the strength required for many of the moves challenges muscles you didn’t even know you had. Even better, dancing doesn’t feel like you’re working out. You’re not staring down the minutes on an elliptical machine or watching the calories burned calculator slowly climb on a treadmill.
However, just like there’s so much more to health than the physical, salsa dancing betters every part of your well-being. Consider your mental health, equally as important as your physical yet more often overlooked. There’s a reason there are so many mental health bills currently under consideration. It’s a lot easier to realize we need to focus on “health” when we see someone who’s so out of shape they can’t climb a small set of stairs compared to focusing on the health of someone who looks completely fine but might be suffering from severe depression, anxiety, agoraphobia or an eating disorder.
Salsa dancing certainly isn’t a cure-all for everything that ails you—there is no such thing. But it certainly brings benefits to your holistic well-being by the bucketful.
We need to socialize in order to feel connected, engaged and like our presence makes a difference. Numerous studies have shown that social media, while obviously marketed to make it seem like we’re more connected, actually increases our feelings of loneliness and isolation. It’s been shown to increase depression for some users, too. Physically getting out there, meeting people, and non-sexual skin to skin contact (which is important for adults as well as newborns!) is vital to our well-being. Dancing gives us a boost of endorphins, can help with the blues, and gives us a much-needed sense of community. Go ahead and follow your local salsa groups on Facebook and like photos of local competitions—just don’t let social media be your only link to the salsa world.
Emotional health certainly overlaps with mental, but it also rightly has its own niche and salsa can better it. We’re emotional creatures and regularly indulging in every emotion on the spectrum, from frustration to elation, is vital for our overall well-being. Salsa itself is a very emotional dance, and dancing with our partners can help us feel more of the good stuff: Joy, excitement and the thrill that comes with nailing a new step that first time flawlessly.
For those who get into competitive dancing, you establish new goals and experience the gamut of emotions that come with it. Feeling nervous before a competition, determination when it’s crunch time, and the unparalleled happiness of placing helps keep your emotional health balanced.
Is dancing a spiritual practice? For many dancers, the answer is a resounding, “Yes!” Don’t confused spiritual with religious, though (although some dancers are certainly quick to compare dancing with a religious experience!). Your spiritual health, no matter what your faith or lack thereof, needs feeding. You might not have a specific name for this part of your health, and that’s fine. However, there are some things we just know by experience, like the fact that a stroll in the woods revitalizes us, increases our mind’s clarity and makes us feel connected to something greater. The same happens for many with dancing. Most dancers who have been at it for awhile can recall at least a few times where they felt whisked away to another, magical world while in dance. Maybe it was that first time you performed in front of your class, or that time you finally bumped up to the advanced level. When you leave a class feeling more grounded and happier than you did entering, that’s a sign that your spiritual health has been watered. This, of course, has benefits that extend to every other part of your life.
The question isn’t, “Is salsa dancing healthy for you?” It’s, “What part of your health is salsa dancing going to benefit the most today?” So strap on those shoes and leave the heart monitor at home. This is one workout where you don’t need a fitness tracker to know you’re doing your body good.