Dancing is a Good Way to Celebrate American Heart Month

February is a month when we have hearts on the brain, celebrating both American Heart Month and Valentine’s Day. These events act as calendar reminders to be mindful of your heart, and keep it strong, healthy and active. One of the best  — and fun! — ways to keep it healthy, is to dance. Dancing has been proven to have incrediblemental and physical health benefits. It’s also been proven that dancing is one of the best physical exercises a person can do to keep their heart strong.

“Dancing appears to be an attractive and fun way for heart failure patients to get their exercise,” says Elliot M. Antman, M.D, a heart specialist at Harvard Medical School. “I highly recommend it.”

Dancing’s positive effects go beyond mere exercise. The chemicals in our brain that affect mood shift into overdrive when we hear music. Be it upbeat or sad and slow, music can alter the way we feel. When people hear a song that makes them move, their daily stresses disappear. And any reduction in stress is great for the heart!

But not all exercise is created equal. While any cardiovascular exercise is good for the heart, dancing may be even better. An Italian study tested 110 people; 40 percent walked on treadmills, 40 percent danced, and 20 percent did nothing. At the end of the test, both groups that exercised “improved [their] heart health and breathing,” (no surprise there). But Dr. Robert Bonow, the chief of cardiology at Northwestern Memorial School of Medicine, believes one of dancing’s primary health benefits may be “related to the fact that they are interacting socially instead of walking on a treadmill by themselves.”

In other words, exercise + music + social interaction = good heart health.

Dancing is good for the heart, but it’s also good for the mind, body and spirit. Dancing and dance lessons offer an ideal social atmosphere with physical and emotional benefits. Dancing with a loved one, or even a stranger, can help you feel good on the inside, while improving your confidence. Always speak to a doctor before participating in any physical activities. But if you are cleared to exercise, there’s no better way to celebrate the Month of the Heart (February), than by learning to dance, having fun and improving your overall health.