How to Get Fit with Low-impact Dance Exercise for Seniors

Medicare Benefits Solutions
Aug 26, 2022

Staying physically and mentally fit doesn’t have to be boring. Many seniors have found that exercising in a group setting can be fun, and socializing can keep feelings of isolation and depression at bay. Low-impact dance classes may help you stay active and you may even make some great social connections. Consider getting fit with dance classes for seniors.

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Dance Exercise for Seniors

The positive impact of exercise on physical and mental health continues throughout your lifetime. The National Council on Aging (NCOA) promotes activity for adults 65 and older, “even those with chronic conditions and mobility challenges.” Still, the agency encourages participants to consult with a doctor before starting any fitness program.

TIP: Discover how to move your way to better health and if exercise can help manage diabetes. 

Top 9 Benefits of Dance Exercises for Seniors

You may be wondering, is dancing a good exercise for elderly people? There are many reasons why dance makes a great form of exercise for seniors.

1. Boosts heart health

According to research published in the National Library of Medicine, dancing is a great cardio workout. Researchers studied the impact of dance on cardiovascular risk (CVR) in older people. They concluded that a dance workout for seniors might increase peak oxygen consumption, making dance as effective as other forms of exercise in improving aerobic capacity.

2. Helps improve balance

Stepping in time with rhythm improves balance, counteracting some effects of aging. Older adults are more likely to have trouble with balance, and balance disorders increase the risk of falling. The ability to control and hold your position is key to walking steadily, getting up from a seated position, and climbing stairs without stumbling. All these activities contribute to your capacity to live independently.

3. Enhances functional fitness

The Alternative Therapies in Health & Medicine published a review of 18 studies to explore the physical health benefits of dance among older adults. Participant ages averaged 52 to 87 years old, and the dancing styles studied were ballroom, contemporary cultural, pop and jazz. “The findings suggest that dance, regardless of its style, can significantly improve muscular strength and endurance, balance and other aspects of functional fitness in older adults.”

Functional fitness supports you in everyday activities like picking yourself up from the floor, carrying heavy items and placing things on a high shelf. Functional fitness allows you to perform daily functions with ease, so you don’t feel frail and afraid to move.

4. Boosts Mental Health

Specific exercises like yoga, Tai Chi, chair yoga and dance are known to bolster the mind-body-spirit connection. Practicing controlled movements and creative expression can have a self-healing effect. The American Dance Therapy Association defines dance/movement therapy “as the psychotherapeutic use of movement to promote emotional, social, cognitive and physical integration of the individual for the purpose of improving health and well-being.”

5. Improves Flexibility

Dancing naturally positions you to move your joints in a full range of motion. When fluid flows through your joints, you feel more comfortable in your movements, increasing flexibility and reducing your risk of injury.

6. Good for Your Bones

Dancing, like walking and climbing stairs, is a weight-bearing aerobic exercise. When your bones have to support your weight, you increase bone mass, particularly important for people with osteopenia or osteoporosis. Dancing helps to strengthen your muscles, and muscles support your bones.

7. Challenges your mind and memory

The more you use your brain, the better. Learning a dance routine means memorizing steps and keeping time with the music, and these activities strengthen your cognitive abilities.

TIP: read our companion article on How to Train Your Brain for Better Mental Fitness.

8. Weight management

According to WebMD, “a 30-minute dance class burns between 130 and 250 calories, about the same as jogging.” Weight management can be an important part of preventing serious illnesses and chronic conditions like heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.

9. Dancing is fun!

Dancing is an exercise that anyone can do and is easily modified for the speed and intensity you prefer. If you are looking for social activity, grab a partner. If you like classes, many forms of dance offer an outlet for creative expression. Or simply turn up the music at home, and enjoy dancing in the privacy of your own space.

What is the Best Exercise Activity for a 65-year-old?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that consistent physical activity is one of the most significant actions you can take to prevent or delay health issues that often come with age. Exercise is the best action you can take to stay physically strong and avoid dependence on others.

According to the CDC, some physical activity is better than none, but, ideally, an exercise program for adults aged 65 and older should incorporate the following workouts every week:

  • Moderate activities like brisk walking
  • Vigorous activities like hiking, jogging, or running
  • Strength training
  • Activities that improve balance like dancing

TIP: Find out if your existing Medicare plan covers gym members or other health and wellness benefits.

Online and In-person Dance Exercises

Here are a few tips for finding in-person and online dance classes for seniors.

Fitness programs

If you have Medicare Advantage (MA), check if your benefits include membership in a fitness program. Some MA plans partner with companies like SilverSneakers, which offers instructor-led group fitness classes online and in person, exercise equipment and workout videos.

Fit & Strong, a fitness program endorsed by several organizations like the CDC and NCOA, is designed to help adults with osteoarthritis, joint pain and stiffness, and comorbidities. Fit & Strong community/group-based workshops are located across the country.

Free dance and fitness resources

Many communities offer free dance exercise classes for seniors. Check your local senior center and library. You can also ask your librarian if senior dance exercise videos are available for borrowing. Many dance exercise videos for seniors are available on YouTube. For gym memberships, like the YMCA, ask the facility about senior citizen discounts.

You can also search for fitness-related MeetUp groups in your area. This is a great way to meet people locally who share similar interests such as line dancing, hiking, walking, kayaking, Tai Chi, and more!

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How to Prepare for Senior Dance Exercise Classes

If you are planning to register for dance exercise classes for seniors, you can take a few steps to prepare. Before starting any exercise, please talk to your doctor first. Together, you can determine if you need to take any extra precautions, or respect any physical limitations you may have.

Check if the dancing will be high- or low-impact. Generally, low-impact dancing is when one foot remains on the ground, like when you take a step to the side and bring the other foot in to meet it. High-impact dancing involves both feet leaving the ground as in jumping jacks. Some instructors incorporate both low- and high-impact moves in their classes.

Inquire about the instructor’s background. A dance leader with experience in teaching seniors may be more likely to set a tone that will put you at ease. You’ll want to wear clothing that you are comfortable moving in and don’t forget to bring a water bottle with you so you can stay hydrated while working out.

And you might want to bring a change of clothes with you if you plan on going out for food or drinks with any of your classmates after class. Most of all, come with a smile, knowing that you are doing something extraordinary for your body and soul.

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