Dancing: Getting started

Laura McKay
Senior physiotherapist at Bupa UK
16 September 2021
Next review due September 2024

Let’s dance! Maybe you’re excited for the return of Strictly Come Dancing or you’ve been inspired by Work It on Netflix. There are plenty of reasons to get moving to music, for both your mental and physical health. Dancing is a fantastic way to get fit and have fun at the same time, and here I’ll answer some common questions about getting started.

What are the physical benefits of dancing?

Dance is a great way to keep fit because it requires lots of different skills. Depending on the type of dancing you choose it can:

  • raise your heart rate
  • strengthen your muscles
  • improve your flexibility
  • improve your balance
  • improve your coordination

Dancing also requires you to use lots of different parts of your body - from your head to your toes – meaning it can be a full body workout. Gentler forms of dance can also be a great way to improve your fitness if you have limited mobility, or you don’t currently do much exercise.

What are the mental benefits of dancing?

Dancing also has a range of mental health and wellbeing benefits. It can help you to engage with your emotions and connect with other people. Some research suggests that regular dancing can improve your quality of life and help you feel less stressed.

Laura goes to a street dance class every week. Here’s what she has to say about the benefits of dancing.

“When I walk into a dance class, I immediately feel a sense of release, I leave whatever has happened during the day behind me and focus my mind on the challenge ahead. And believe me, it’s a challenge! Not only do you push your body physically, but you also have to think about the way it moves.

“When I leave a dance class I feel great – I’m buzzing from the excitement and challenge of learning a new piece of choreography. And even if I haven’t quite nailed it towards the end of the session, it gives me something to focus on and determination to get it right.”

Will I be able to keep up in a dance class?

If you’re new to dancing, join a beginner’s class so you don’t feel out of your depth. If you’re finding it hard to keep up, don’t be afraid to ask the teacher to slow down or repeat something. If you’re new to exercise or have an injury, make sure you tell the person running the class. Take a moment in each class to reflect on how you’ve improved.

Can I take dance lessons without a partner?

Yes. There are lots of dance styles and classes that you can do by yourself, such as ballet, modern, street and jazz. And even for dances where you usually have a partner, such as salsa, many classes are designed so that you can join the class by yourself.

Do you need confidence to dance?

No. It’s normal to feel a bit nervous when you start learning to dance. But dance teachers want to share their love of dancing and will encourage an open and supportive atmosphere. Remember, lots of other people there will be feeling the same way as you. The most important thing is to enjoy learning something new and have fun.

Are there dance classes for disabled people?

Yes. There are dance classes available that aim to get everyone involved in dance. The ParaDance UK website lists inclusive classes across the country. These classes are open to everyone, so if your partner isn’t disabled they can still dance with you too.

Am I too old to learn to dance?

Never. Dancing is for everyone – from small children to those in their 90s. If you’d prefer to take a class with people of a similar age, contact your local dance school. There’s a good chance they offer classes aimed at certain age groups.

What should I wear to a dance class?

Most dance classes can be done in light, loose clothing. For some classes you might need to wear tighter clothing so that the teacher can check you’re making the right shapes with your body. Wear supportive shoes such as trainers. You might need to buy special shoes if you’re taking a class such as tap or ballet. Ask your teacher if you’re not sure.

See you on the dancefloor!

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Laura McKay
Laura McKay
Senior physiotherapist at Bupa UK

    • Review of evidence on the outcomes of sport and physical activity: A rapid evidence review. Sport England., published May 2017
    • Sheppard A, Broughton MC. Promoting wellbeing and health through active participation in music and dance: a systematic review. Int J Qual Stud Health Well-being 2020; 15(1). doi: 10.1080/17482631.2020.1732526
    • UK Chief Medical Officers' Physical Activity Guidelines. Public Health England., published 7 September 2019
    • How to join in. ParaDance UK., accessed 14 September 2021
    • What to wear to dance class. City Academy., accessed 14 September 2021

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