The Health Benefits of Dance for Beginners

Dance is a fantastic alternative to traditional forms of exercise, especially for people with type 2 diabetes[1]. Dancing as a form of physical activity[2] is not only fun, but it also can provide essential health benefits needed for those with diabetes (of any age) by helping to keep glucose levels[3] in check and supporting healthy bone mineral density[4]. Whether you are an experienced dancer or a beginner, engaging in dance on a daily or weekly basis can effectively help you reach your fitness goals. In addition, dance can be modified to meet your specific physical needs, based on your strengths and weaknesses.

Research published in an American College of Sports Medicine journal found that individuals with type 2 diabetes benefited greatly from high-intensity interval training (HIIT). High-intensity activities are designed to increase heart rates for a short period of time. Dance-related exercises such as Zumba[5], hip hop and salsa are perfect examples of styles that use repetitious, short bursts of energy. The study found that over a three-month period, heart function[6] improved dramatically for adults with type 2 diabetes who participated in some form of exercise that utilized high-intensity bursts. Researchers believe that this form of exercise can reduce or even reverse the loss in heart function that can often be caused by diabetes.

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For those unable to perform high-intensity activities, researchers at York University suggest that aerobic exercise, which includes dancing, walking and light cycling, can improve health conditions for those with diabetes, specifically through reducing high blood glucose[8]. Researchers found that people with diabetes who maintained some form of physical activity consistently were less likely to develop diabetes-related diseases and were more likely to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Regardless of your dance level or ability, consider putting on your dancing shoes and participating in one of the following types of dance as a form of physical activity. Keep in mind that, as when you learn any new skill, you may need several weeks of classes before you get “into the swing” of any new form of dance. You will need some practice to learn the steps and develop the necessary balance and coordination. Keep at it and don’t give up. Check with your doctor to find out what is best for you.

Ballroom dancing

Ballroom dancing is a perfect choice for beginners, as it can be easily adapted to any level of mobility and can provide health benefits from improved cardiovascular health to lowering blood pressure[9] and cholesterol[10]. Additionally, ballroom dancing is considered a weight-bearing exercise that can strengthen and improve bone density, provide muscular definition, and lower the risk of osteoporosis, a common complication for people with diabetes. As a ballroom beginner, you should consider learning the waltz. It is a slow and smooth dance, and it only uses four simple steps. Individuals of any age or level can enjoy this type of dance. Researchers from the University of Missouri found[11] that dancing isn’t just a fun, engaging activity but can also serve as a form of therapy, especially for seniors. The two studies conducted by the university found that seniors, in particular, can improve their gait through dance-based therapy, significantly reducing the risks of falling or experiencing other age-related injuries. Gait changes can occur for people with diabetes due to muscular deterioration. For seniors who engaged in regular dance therapy over a two-month period, results proved that levels of gait, balance and overall functionality could be significantly improved.

Zumba dancing

Interested in a form of dance that has a faster pace? Zumba might be for you. As a beginner, you can keep Zumba low impact by replacing high-impact jumping with stepping and walking. A study from 2015[12] conducted by researchers from Texas Tech University found that women who were overweight or obese and had type 2 diabetes experienced improvements to their health through participating in Zumba dance classes. Zumba is a cardio-dance program that has become popular among people of all ages for its enjoyable and interactive approach to traditional exercise. Researchers found that following a 16-week Zumba program, women with type 2 diabetes were successful in shedding weight without changing or restricting their diets. Additionally, the study proved that dance can improve physical fitness and reduce the risks of cardiovascular disease and other conditions related to diabetes.


A bellydancing class for beginners might be right up your alley. Props like beaded skirts and scarves can make this activity even more fun. Again, there are no age barriers here. Bellydancing is highly recommended as a low-impact, stress-relieving exercise alternative for individuals with type 2 diabetes. Bellydancing promotes an increase in bone density, which can often be reduced due to diabetes-related disease and the fluctuation of glucose levels. As a weight-bearing exercise, bellydancing can aid in the prevention of osteoporosis and help to strengthen bones. Furthermore, movements involving the slow, repetitive rotation of the hips and pelvic region can help alleviate back[13] and joint pain. Research was conducted[14] by sociology professor Angela M. Moe, PhD, from Western Michigan University, that involved middle-aged and older women to evaluate the benefits of bellydancing. Moe found that the participants experienced significant benefits from this style of dance, including increased self-esteem, improved flexibility and stress reduction. As well, bellydancing can aid in gaining or regaining mobility and is often physically comfortable, supporting a range of body types and physical abilities. Moe also suggests that because bellydancing is low impact, it can be adapted for a variety of rehabilitative or preventative purposes.

Latin dancing

Get your J.Lo groove on and reap the health benefits! A study published[15] by the American College of Sports Medicine found that Latin dancing was a powerful force in reducing gestational diabetes in pregnant women and reducing the possibility of developing type 2 diabetes. The researchers found that physical inactivity was associated with the risk of developing diabetes through glucose intolerance. As well, weight gain and obesity were found to promote type 2 diabetes in women, especially pregnant women. Through engaging in aerobic exercise, including Latin dancing, women who participated in the study were able to reduce the likelihood of developing gestational diabetes. Another study[16] conducted by the University of Illinois found that Latin dancing in general aided elderly dancers by improving walking speeds and influencing their activity levels. Researchers found that when elderly people engage in Latin dancing, it can provide them with a form of stress relief, emotional well-being and interaction with others in their communities. Furthermore, physical activity in the form of tango dancing can reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes.

So, what are you waiting for? Pick a style of dance that suits you, double check with your doctor, and get grooving!

Want to learn more about dancing for health? Read “The Health Benefits of Dance,”[17] “Zumba for Diabetes”[18] and “So You Think You Can’t Dance?”[19]

  1. type 2 diabetes:
  2. physical activity:
  3. glucose levels:
  4. bone mineral density:
  5. Zumba:
  6. heart function:
  7. sign up for our free newsletter:
  8. high blood glucose:
  9. lowering blood pressure:
  10. cholesterol:
  11. Researchers from the University of Missouri found:
  12. A study from 2015:
  13. back:
  14. Research was conducted:
  15. A study published:
  16. Another study:
  17. “The Health Benefits of Dance,”:
  18. “Zumba for Diabetes”:
  19. “So You Think You Can’t Dance?”:

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