By Dr Dan Robertson

10 ways dancing is great for your health

As another series of Strictly Come Dancing draws to a close, our fitness experts have looked at what makes dancing such as a great form of exercise.

Whether you enjoy a sizzling Samba or a cheeky Charleston, there are plenty of reasons to keep dancing all year round.

1. Lose weight

Dancing is a fantastic cardiovascular exercise that's sure to burn off a bunch of calories. You'll often see Strictly contestants marvelling at how much weight they've lost over the course of the show.

Get more dancing in your life and that could be you!

Which dance burns the most calories?

If you're serious about losing weight through dancing, you'll probably want to know which dance will be the most effective at burning those calories.

This isn't an easy question to answer. Obviously, there are lots of factors to consider. Your starting weight and your diet will both affect how much work you need to do to achieve what's known as a caloric deficit - that is, how much exercise you must do in order to burn off more calories than you're taking in.

However, the table below offers a rough estimate of how many calories each of the dances featured on Strictly will burn in 15 minutes.

Dance Men Women
Waltz 42 36
Tango 42 36
Rumba 42 36
Foxtrot 42 36
Cha Cha Cha 42 36
Paso Doble 74 62
Salsa 74 62
Quickstep 74 67
Samba 80 67
Charleston 80 67
Jive 80 62
Table based on UK average weight for men and women.

2. Build muscle

As you'd expect, both ballroom and Latin dancing work a range of muscles in your body.

Most dances require the muscles in your hips, thighs, calves, hamstrings, backside and back, while a strong core is needed for things like holding a position and transferring weight from one side of your body to the other.

3. Improve your fine motor skills, coordination and balance

Good coordination and balance is what stops you walking into things or falling over. Dancing is a very intricate art form, and as you can see from the routines on Strictly, it requires a lot of coordination and balance.

With a lot of practice, you will even find you become less dizzy when doing a dance that involves lots of spinning around, such as the waltz.

Dancing is also an excellent way of improving your fine motor skills - these are movements involving your hands, fingers, feet and toes, which aren't necessarily the focus of other types of exercise.

Dance classes can even teach you how to fall more safely, so you'll learn how to reduce the impact if you do take a tumble.

4. Keep your joints flexible

Studies have shown that dancers suffer fewer joint injuries than athletes, particularly in areas such as the knee.

This could be due to the fact that dancing strengthens joints without overworking them. Many sports, such as running, golf or tennis, require you to repeat the same action over and over again, putting pressure on the same joint.

This isn't the case with dancing, where you can mix things up and move around however you want to.

Suffer from joint pain? We can help with that here.

5. Improve your mood

Dancing is a way to express yourself and doing so connects with the emotional centres of your brain.

The fact that you tend to dance to music that you enjoy also contributes to this.

Because it causes such a strong emotional response, studies suggest that dancing often releases more 'happy hormones', such as endorphins and serotonin, than other forms of exercise.

6. Relieve stress

As well as prompting the release of endorphins, dancing also suppresses cortisol, the hormone responsible for stress.

Whereas exercise can sometimes feel like work, dancing is very much a leisure activity. This makes it a great way to deal with stress.

7. Keep your memory sharp

Keeping your brain active is important for your mental health, particularly as you get older. Learning a dance routine and remembering the steps is a great way to do this.

In fact, studies have even shown that dancing regularly can reduce your risk of dementia.

8. Help with anxiety

Dance is sometimes used by therapists as a way to cure anxiety. It can help deal with a fear of certain social situations, such as speaking in front of an audience or interacting with people at a party.

The idea is that dancing is a way to make you feel more comfortable with expressing yourself in front of strangers.

9. Have fun

There's a reason Strictly is such a popular show, and that's that dancing is fun to watch and even more fun to participate in.

Often, what people find hard about exercises such as running or cycling is that it's quite repetitive. With dancing, you can do anything you like and this can make it a much more enjoyable alternative.

You don't even need to be a particularly good dancer. As long as you're moving to the music, you're getting a wide range of physical and psychological benefits.

10. It costs nothing

Another obstacle to exercise is cost. Gym subscriptions, running gear and sports equipment can all be expensive and put people off doing activities that would actually improve their health and fitness.

The good news is, you can get all of the benefits we've discussed so far for absolutely nothing.

Find more ways to keep fit

Not the dancing type? Don't worry, our experts have plenty more suggestions that will help you stay fit and healthy all year round.