I started taking dance classes when I was an impressionable five years old, so my young mind and little baby muscles were more or less immediately shaped by my Thursday evening dance classes. At this point in my life, my relationship with dance is like hearing an old favorite song — I don't do it enough, and whenever I do, it reminds me of how much the art is burned into my being. I've come to learn that there are so many ways that dancing for exercise changes your life permanently.
Thinking back on the years of practices, recitals, and getting repeatedly and emphatically told by my mother to stop practicing fouetté turns and my triple time step in the grocery store, there are some big moments that stand out as transformative, and I think about those moments kind of a lot. But, more than that, dance has affected my adult life in slower, more subtle ways, loads of which I probably don't even notice yet.
One thing is for sure though — dance is amazing exercise. Ballet, tap, salsa, and Zumba will all leave your body pleasantly exhausted (and ready for a burrito), and your mind clear (and also ready for a burrito). Here are nine ways dancing for exercise will change your life.
1. Your posture will be permanently awesome
One of those transcendent moments when I was in ballet class as a young human was the day I figured out what sitting up all-the-way straight felt like. After dancing for a while, you'll find that bolt upright feeling and never want to let go. Also, people aren't shy about complimenting good posture, so that's something.
2. You will become incredibly aware of how your body is positioned
Dancing will teach you body awareness on a level you've never experienced before, and not just because you see your own body in the mirror more frequently. The first time a fellow dancer gives you a death stare for standing directly in front of his or her mirror "window," everything will click. Never again will you stand in everyone's way in the grocery store, blocking all access points to the delicious chicken wraps while you pace back and forth with your empty cart. You'll know exactly what you're going to look like in photos, and you'll be the world's best pedestrian. The frustrating part about this one is you'll also be aware of everyone else blocking people's paths, so be gentle.
3. Your stories will start including a lot of big hand gestures
Ever watch a group of dancers telling stories to each other? There is a hilarious amount of gesticulating, flailing, and physical demonstration. You'll know exactly what "she was like" down to the way she flipped her hair. These people tell stories with their bodies all the time — can you blame them for incorporating that into their everyday life?
4. You’ll gain friends and teammates
You know how on every ballet movie in the history of American cinema, the dancers are all cutthroat and horrible to each other? While there is some occasional cattiness, as there is with any group of people vying for the same pool of attention, dancers are incredibly supportive of their peers and are happy to help a fellow groover perfect a technique, create an unshakeable bun, or blow off steam after a tough class.
5. Rhythm rhythm rhythm
It's not just important on the dance floor, people. You'll find yourself having to forcibly not walk to the beat of songs playing in public places if you don't want to give off that music video vibe.
6. You will never care if someone sees you dancing in the car again
I sit in LA traffic a preposterous number of hours per week, and when the mood strikes, sometimes you gotta car dance, and I fully, completely, 100 percent do not care who sees it.
7. Your feet will probably change
This is especially true if you pick up ballet. Your arches will become more flexible and might even get bigger. You'll get blisters, broken toenails, and you might discover that your ankles get tired easily. But for better or worse, as a dancer at any level, you'll get to know your feet like you never thought you would.
8. You will gain a new appreciation for other athletes
The dedication it takes just to show up to practice something so demanding of your body is enough to scare away some people. The level of discipline required to be great at a physical craft is way off the charts.
9. You will learn a new kind of self-love
With a steady stream of exercise endorphins and loads of exposure to your own reflection, you'll get to know and love yourself on a totally new level. There is scientific evidence to suggest that seeing one's own reflection can actually help a person's self esteem, but it's not all about your appearance. Watching yourself improve at an art form that requires an intense mind-body connection in real time is incredibly rewarding.
Looking for some more fitness inspiration? Check out Bustle on YouTube.
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