Wherever you work – behind a desk, in a grocery store or hospital – stress can accumulate through the day. Come afternoon, you may feel sluggish from hours of sitting, or stressed from other factors at work. A little boost can give you renewed energy to make it through the day.
Coffee or a sugary treat may sound like that tempting boost, but finding time for a little movement is better for you. A short dance break need take no longer than a 10 or 15-minute scheduled break. Don’t have that much time? You’ll still loosen up in the length of the typical 3 to 4-minute song.
Dance is highly adaptable to your conditioning level and circumstances. It requires no exercise equipment and very little space. It’s free. You only need music and the willingness to relax and let yourself go for a few minutes.
Creating a playlist of songs for your dance breaks (both low-intensity and high-intensity) will save you the extra time of searching for music in the moment. Any form of music will do. Pop, rock, hip hop, salsa, children’s music, cultural music from around the globe – even classical music, if that’s what makes you want to move.
For those who work with the public and want to avoid getting sweaty in their workplace, it’s easy enough to stick with low-tempo songs and gentle movements, or keep a dance break short. If you’re working from home or you work with children, a high-energy dance break might be more appealing.
“You should have some opportunities to fit in little bursts of exercise throughout the day that elevate your heart rate, which have positive effects on how you feel and your caloric burn,” says Chris Moedritzer, NASM-certified personal trainer and independent operator of Mo Fitness in Seattle.
Young kids attending school remotely need to leave their desks periodically to take a mental break and get some movement. A short dance break to their favorite song allows children to release pent-up energy from hours of sitting. They might even enjoy more than one dance break in their day.
“Dance movements often happen in all three planes of motion (sagittal, frontal, and transverse), which is different than something like riding a stationary bike or running on a treadmill,” says Chris Moedritzer. When you walk, run, or cycle, you’re moving in just one forward direction. Whereas, he adds, “dancing generally involves combinations of vertical, horizontal, diagonal, and rotational movements of the body, which trains many different muscle groups.”
Because dance works nearly all the muscle groups in the body, it makes an ideal form of movement to “improve muscular strength and endurance, balance, and other aspects of functional fitness in older adults,” according to studies in the National Institutes of Health. These health benefits are not limited to older adults, however. Dance is good for people of all ages and fitness levels.
Indeed, dance need not be limited to just those who are able-bodied and neurotypical. Stopgap Dance Company provides inclusive dance videos for people with limited mobility on YouTube. Their videos include dance movements designed for the disabled and those with special needs.
People of all ages, and teens in particular, enjoy learning new dances on TikTok. Learning choreography involves following instructions and memorizing a pattern of movements. This type of learning, called probabilistic learning, differs from the common ways that we learn things. Dance requires more of your brain than you think!
Yet, even free-form dance can benefit cognitive function. Engaging in regular dance movement improves attention, memory, and neuroplasticity, studies report.
Dance can be solitary or social. You can dance with one partner, or dance in a group. In fact, meeting up with loved ones far away for a short dance break is a great way to connect and have fun in a virtual setting. People of all ages can dance together, too.
Invite grandparents to join their grandchildren for a short dance break during the school day or after school. It allows older members of the family to engage in fun activities together with grandchildren when they can’t spend time in the same physical space.
Unlike other types of exercise, dance is an art form. No other athletic activity integrates music into the structure of its movements. You may listen to music while you engage in other kinds of exercise, but you don’t, say, kick a ball to the beat of a song. Dance is a uniquely expressive form of movement, both creatively and emotionally.
Need a few moments of joy in your life? Turn on some music and dance.
Image by YakobchukOlena