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Cut a Rug and Cut the Fat

Remember how much fun you used to have on the dance floor? You probably didn't even think about how good it was for your heart, your lungs, your joints, your muscles, and your stress level—you were just out having fun.

Perhaps you still look forward to weddings and holidays to show everyone you've still got the moves. But why wait for the occasional social gathering? People of all ages are discovering the joys of dancing and signing up for classes or going to dance halls.

Waltzing to fitness

If you haven't been getting much exercise lately, dancing is a fun way to increase your activity level. Even if you have to rest frequently, dancing can help improve your health. Start with slower dances, like an easy waltz, and work your way up to the more vigorous moves of the mambo or the fancy footwork of country dancing.

The more you practice, the longer and more vigorously you'll be able to dance. Energetic dancing can give you all the benefits of aerobic exercise. It raises your heartbeat and increases your oxygen intake as you move the large muscles of your body. Dancing burns calories, helps strengthen your heart and bones, and tones your muscles. It can also help you maintain your balance and increase your strength, endurance, and flexibility. And the more time you spend dancing, the greater the effect on your health. Dancing energetically for half an hour is like cycling five miles in the same time period.

Dancing can also be a boon to your social life. Take a dance class or join a dance group. It will give you a chance to interact with new people, build friendships, and maybe even renew or start a romance.

What to do about two left feet

Are you afraid that when you dance you look more like a wooden soldier than Fred Astaire? If so, you may want to take a dance class. Taking a class can help build your confidence. You don't need a partner to take a class. Some dances are done solo. And some dance classes assign partners. Check the phone book or Internet for a dance instructor, or pick up a book or video on the type of dancing you are interested in. Many adult education centers and community centers also offer dance classes. Practice dancing with your significant other, or start a dancing club with friends.

Be sure to talk with your doctor before beginning any dancing or exercise program.