A new study published this week has found that dancing is an exceptionally effective form of exercise for losing weight and keeping it off long-term for overweight and obese adults. The findings show that dancing leads to greater total weight loss compared to other common physical activities.
Main Study Findings
Researchers at the University of Bern conducted a two-year randomized controlled trial with overweight and obese adults. The participants were assigned either a dancing intervention or a traditional fitness program.
After two years, the dancing group lost significantly more weight on average and was more likely to maintain their weight loss.
|Avg. Weight Loss
|% Maintaining Loss After 1 Year
The study, published in Sports Medicine, found that dancing:
- Led to greater total fat loss, especially dangerous visceral fat
- Built more muscle mass to raise metabolic rate
- Was more enjoyable so participants stayed engaged
“This research definitively shows dancing is superior to conventional exercise for weight loss for obese individuals,” said lead researcher Dr. Paula Schumacher. “The artistic, social and enjoyable nature of dance makes it more sustainable.”
Why Dancing is So Effective for Weight Control
Experts say there are several key reasons why dancing outperforms other exercise regimens:
Total Body Workout
Dancing is a highly vigorous full-body activity that engages all major muscle groups. The constant movement leads to high calorie burn during workouts. Over time, increased muscle tone raises daily energy expenditure.
Elevated Heart Rate
Vigorous styles of dance significantly raise heart rate, increasing cardiovascular benefits. The average heart rate during dance workouts in the study exceeded 80% max heart rate. High heart rate exercise promotes fat loss.
Enjoyment & Motivation
Most participants found dancing to be fun and enjoyable. The pleasure of dancing encouraged participants to stick with it long-term and attend more frequent workouts compared to traditional fitness routines alone.
Dancing promotes relief of emotional stresses according to studies. Lower stress leads to lower levels of cortisol and inflammation driving weight gain. The arts, music element offers escape.
The social aspect of dancing classes provides accountability and support. Forming positive bonds with other dancers can increase commitment and make exercise a regular habit.
Dancing Particularly Effective for Women
An interesting additional finding was the outsized benefits of dance for weight loss seen specifically among female participants in the trial.
Women in the dance intervention lost over 50% more weight on average than women in traditional fitness:
|Avg. Weight Loss (Females)
Researchers believe cognitive, emotional and social factors may drive enhanced benefits of artistic dance for weight control in women. But more studies are needed to confirm the gender differences.
This landmark study demonstrates dancing’s unmatched effectiveness for trimming excess body weight among those overweight.
The authors predict based on the results that dancing could supplant conventional fitness advice as the primary exercise method recommended by health practitioners for obesity. Already, several leading obesity specialization clinics in Europe have updated guidance to patients based on these findings.
Insurers in Germany and Switzerland have also now branded certain styles of dance classes as “preventative medicine” – allowing access benefits similar to gym memberships.
Assuming additional studies reproduce the weight loss superiority of dance, coverage expansions seem inevitable according to clinical experts. “We expect health systems globally to rapidly integrate dance given the enjoyment and adherence benefits,” noted Dr. Schumacher.
With over 65% of adults now overweight across Western nations, promoting enjoyable, sustainable activities like dance as preferable to joyless chronic dieting is increasingly urgent.
As one 41-year old female participant who lost over 50 lbs dancing enthused: “I feel so much better about my body, and I’m far healthier since I started dancing each day rather than forcing myself through the same old tedious workouts.”
Concerns Over Long-Term Adherence
However, some researchers not involved with the dancing for weight loss study have raised skeptical concerns about the translatability of the findings.
“Do we really think millions of middle aged overweight men are going to suddenly sign up for ballet classes long-term?” posed noted obesity researcher Dr. John Hernley in an interview this week.
Dr. Hernley worries that overweight individuals may enjoy and stick with dance classes initially, but still ultimately relapse into poor diet and exercise behaviors undermining weight loss maintenance. He stressed the difficulty most overweight people have adhered to any weight management regimen, dancing or otherwise, 12-24 months after starting.
Still, the study authors and outside dance motivation experts counter that the stimulation and community aspects of dancing will empower more obese individuals to commit to permanent lifestyle changes.
“Wefound that those in the dance intervention developed a genuine passion towards dance, so much so that many continued performing and competing even after the study ended,” said lead author Dr. Schumacher. “That level of dedication supports lifelong change.”
Only further studies tracking overweight adults’ sustained engagement with dance training for 3-5 years can provide definitive evidence on whether dancing is the long-elusive weight loss panacea for the overweight. But for now, the verdict is overwhelmingly positive.
In summary, this well-designed randomized controlled trial provides convincing evidence that dancing leads to significantly greater weight loss and fat reduction compared to traditional diet and exercise programs in those struggling with obesity.
Researchers believe dance provides the ideal mixture of vigorous physical activity with emotional joy and social support that empowers overweight individuals to adhere to healthy lifestyles perpetuating lasting weight control.
Consequently, mainstream health providers are now rapidly integrating dance – especially styles with higher exertion like hip hop, Zumba and ballet – into formal obesity treatment protocols based on this promising data.
Of course, long-term studies tracking dancer retention rates are still needed. But the initial indicators are incredibly exciting that the global obesity crisis may have finally met its exercise match in the classic art of dance.
To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.