Benefits of Long-Term Dance Education
Long-term dance lessons definitely have kept me motivated to stay active as an adult. Because I was so active at a young age (training 5-6 days a week, averaging 6 hours a day of dance lessons) not being active now has a negative effect on me. My physical health is very much linked to my mental health. You can imagine how crazy I am going without access to a gym these last few months.
Dance also made me very flexible, which has come in handy in my adult fitness experience. Although I no longer take dance lessons, I do circuit training 5-6 days a week. The flexibility I developed over the years through dance has come in handy when it's time for our stretch/flexibility block at the end of every workout. Because running, rowing, and weight lifting can be taxing on the body, I believe that my flexibility and having the capability to really stretch through the muscles has kept me from getting injured or staying sore for too long after a workout.
Beyond flexibility, posture and learning about the body's frame have also benefited my current fitness abilities. So many years of perfecting my plies has helped ground myself when doing squats; people can really hurt themselves if they complete a squat with an arched back and tilted neck. One of my first circuit training classes, the coach was helping me and another new client with deadlifts with dumbbells. The other client was struggling with keeping her back flat and knees bent, which can be tricky. When the coach came over to check on me, he seemed surprised at how quickly I had caught on. He ended up using me as an example to follow. Slightly bent knees and flat back/elongating the spine was a constant instruction in dance, so it came naturally to me.
If you had asked me 15 years ago what the cons were from my dance experience, I would have told you that my self esteem took a hit. I wasn't the average size of the other girls on my dance team and they, along with my instructor, constantly let me know it. But reflecting on my experience now after so many years, I'd say it eventually helped with my confidence level, because if you take away the other dancers on the team and focus on the skills learned, they are skills that not everyone has and they have benefitted me later in life with my fitness level. I can't tell you how many times I have received compliments during the stretching/flexibility block while I bend over and place my palms on the floor. I constantly hear from others, "Wow, I wish I could stretch that far!" or, "How did you get so flexible?" and those are major confidence boosters!
Emma Guiton is an editor in the publishing industry. Her hobbies include baking, puzzles, board games, reading, and fitness. She lives in Raleigh, NC with her fiance and dog.