Beat the Winter Blues on the Dance Floor

Feeling sad? Depressed? Down in the dumps? It’s called the winter blues, and you’re not alone. Millions of people suffer from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), caused by low levels of light during the cold, winter months. Research has shown exercise can help, and dancing may be one of the best forms of exercise. Besides, what’s more fun than shaking your booty?

Reaching a “dancer’s high” (which is a real thing, we promise), can help reduce the effects of SAD. Dancing combines the benefits of exercise (moving and grooving), stretching (think yoga) and music (which releases adrenaline when your favorite song comes on). Plus, dancing builds confidence, improves memory and boosts learning skills.

But don’t just take our word for it. Take a look at this list put together by Dancing won’t just help alleviate your winter blues and tone you up, it has even better mental and physical health benefits.

Dance away depression: A group of Australian researchers found that men and women with mood disorders who participated in a two-week tango instruction program felt less depressed, and experienced less stress, anxiety and insomnia.

Salsaing for strength: A few weeks of salsa dance classes can seriously increase an older adult’s strength and balance, according to a study published in the journal Gerontology. “Salsa proved to be a safe and feasible exercise program for older adults,” say study authors.

Soft shoeing to alleviate stiffness: Older adults with knee and hip pain may be able to swap their pain medications for dancing shoes, a Saint Louis University (SLU) study recently concluded. After engaging in a 12-week, low-impact dance program, participants who averaged 80 years old were able to decrease the amount of pain medication they were taking by 39 percent.

Waltzing with your heart: People with stable chronic heart failure may derive the same aerobic health advantages from learning how to waltz as they would from more traditional forms of cardiovascular exercise, such as cycling or walking, says a study published in the journal, Circulation.

Defend against dementia with disco: When compared to other leisure activities (e.g. playing golf, doing crosswords, reading, cycling, etc.) dancing appears to offer the best chance of helping stave off dementia. According to a 21-year study led by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, aging adults who danced regularly had a 76 percent reduced risk for developing dementia. Experts say that dancing is beneficial for our brains because it combines cardiovascular exercise with split-second decision making that taxes our neural network, forcing it to create new pathways.

You can do it, in spite of health issues: Parkinson’s disease, dementia, cancer, arthritis, asthma, heart disease: What do all of these conditions have in common? They don’t prohibit you from dancing. Research into using dance as a therapy for each of these ailments has unearthed a host of advantages, with very few risks.

Keeping routines, being social and getting exercise are great ways to avoid the winter blues. Dancing, or even taking dance lessons (like those from the Fred Astaire Dance Studio!), is a great way to accomplish all three.

How do you fight off the winter blues?