4 Dance Classes that Boost Your Body and Brain

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Adding music to movement creates some unique health benefits.

Women doing a dance class

What’s better than a workout that strengthens your whole body? One that also boosts your brain.

“Our culture has a terrible mind-body split,” says Donna Newman-Bluestein, a dance therapist at the American Dance Therapy Association. Dance, which allows you to move your body and tap into your emotions at the same time, can improve your mind-body connection. The result: You’ll tone your arms, legs, stomach, and back while also improving your mental health.

Start by dancing at home. Put on some music when you’re getting ready for your day or doing chores around the house, and let yourself move to the music the way you feel. You don’t have to worry about exact steps or being embarrassed in front of anyone. Remember the saying: “Dance like nobody’s watching.”

When you’re ready, try a dance class. Many are offered via SilverSneakers FLEX classes, or you can check your local community or cultural centers for free or low-cost options. But first, you need to know what you’re looking for.

Here are four great types of dance classes with unique health benefits—no experience required.

Tone Your Total Body with … Ballet

Looking for a quiet class with structure? Ballet, which emphasizes technique and grace, may fit the bill. You’ll start by learning basic positions for your feet, then learn how to connect them together in a series of graceful movements. Because you’ll move slowly, ballet-like motions can be a good option for people with joint pain.

Reduce Stress with … Modern Dance

For a calming experience that also gives you the freedom to express yourself, try modern dance. You’ll focus on alignment, range of motion, and breathing. Like ballet, you’ll learn some basic positions, but modern dance is often less structured.

Improve Balance with … Latin Dance

If you want to work with a partner, give tango a try. You’ll move to lively music and learn detailed footwork. Salsa and samba are other great Latin-inspired options.

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Boost Energy with … West African Dance

This type of dance focuses on full-body movements set to up-tempo rhythms, often provided by live drummers. Dancers typically perform in a circle or line, so you’ll also benefit from a sense of collaboration or teamwork.

In addition to the benefits above, dancing has been shown to reduce depression and anxiety and boost self-esteem, body image, coping ability, and overall sense of well-being. In one study, it even helped control “emotional eating” in obese women who eat as a response to stress.

Any kind of dancing is beneficial, so you can’t go wrong when choosing a class. What counts is getting your muscles in motion and your heart rate rising—in whatever way works for you.

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