Put on your dancing shoes and find your exercise groove

Sheila McLaughlin does a courtesy lunge. For Sally Anderson's monthly Step by Step column for LifeTimes.
Sheila McLaughlin does a courtesy lunge. For Sally Anderson's monthly Step by Step column for LifeTimes.
Published Aug. 24, 2015

Want to get your exercise fix without feeling like you are exercising?

Whether you select ballroom dancing, clogging or simply create your own steps, any type of dance will have you working different areas of your body. With this type of joyful movement, you will be on the receiving end of a great mind-body workout. In addition to burning calories, boosting your mood, increasing energy, strengthening bones and muscles and improving coordination, flexibility and balance, dancing improves your memory skills, producing long-term benefits. I remember from my dancing days that we all had an array of "memory tricks" to help us put together various dance steps. According to a study funded by the National Institute on Aging and published in the New England Journal of Medicine, frequent dancing is at the top of the list of physical activities, regardless of age, that help improve cognitive functioning and offer protection against dementia.

Put On Your Dancing Shoes

Ballroom dancing: Helps to develop flexibility and strengthen leg and back muscles. And there's a bonus: social interaction.

Ballet: Focuses on strength, balance and flexibility while stressing good posture and correct body alignment.

Modern dance: Offers freedom of movement as you release your creativity. This style focuses on your personal interpretations rather than the structured steps you'd find in, say, traditional ballet.

Tap dancing: Produces a cardiovascular workout for the entire body. Balance is a key player here, and you'll use your deep abdominal muscles for balance and proper posture.

Jazz: Promotes freedom of expression. After learning basic dance steps, you are encouraged to add your own personality to the routine, making each movement unique.

Lyrical dance: Blends ballet, jazz and contemporary dance techniques.

Clogging: The official folk dance of North Carolina, clogging originally was designed as a spontaneous freestyle form of dance but has since grown to include choreographed steps. It is very fast-paced, with the heel generally keeping the rhythm on the downbeat.

Zumba: This is a fast-moving, low-impact, high-intensity Latin dance fitness program.

There are nine different styles of Zumba, including Zumba Gold, which is designed for seniors, and Aqua Zumba, a water workout.

Jazzercise: Combines aerobic exercise, resistance training and core work in a dance-based group fitness program.

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If you have mobility restrictions, there's something for you, too: chair dancing. There are videos online.

Check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program. Sally Anderson is happy to hear from readers but can't respond to individual inquiries. Contact her at