Get fit with ballroom dancing

Siski Green / 30 November 2015

Ballroom dancing will get you fit, healthy and happy. Learn how to get started.



Ballroom dancing is a fun and a sociable activity, but it’s also a great form of exercise. One study published in medical journal Heart Care showed that like other forms of exercise, ballroom dancing improves heart health. It can also be a good way to help you lose weight.

Plus, because it is such a social activity, ballroom dancing also been found to improve participants’ social skills and a study from New England Journal of Medicine found that Alzheimer’s patients who danced were less forgetful too. So now you know why you should be signing up for a class, find out what you need to know to get started. 

Related: Dance your way to better heatlh

Do I need a dancing partner?

No. That’s the beauty of ballroom dancing groups and classes. While there are some couples who arrive to dance together, most classes suggest that people switch partners so you all socialise and learn to dance with different people.

“You’ll learn more if you dance with different partners, as each person has unique strengths and weaknesses,” says Nick Miles, ballroom dance expert and Saga Holidays dance host. If you’d prefer to learn only with your partner, however, the instructor will allow it, obviously.

Do I have to wear a dress or tie?

While you don’t need to go all glitzy ballroom-style, it helps if you wear something that makes you feel graceful and elegant. So a blouse or shirt you like rather than a slogan T-shirt, comfortable trousers or a skirt rather than jeans, and definitely no trainers.

“That’s not because they don’t look right while dancing but because you need to be able to slide your foot on the floor,” says Miles. So that also means rubber gripping soles of any kind are out too.

So I have to buy special dancing shoes?

“No,” says Miles, “you can learn ballroom dancing perfectly well in your own comfortable shoes, as long as they allow you to slide a little on the dance floor.” If you find you love ballroom dancing and plan to continue doing it, you can invest in some proper dance shoes. These will have a smallish heel and a strap to make sure you don’t slip out of your shoes while dancing.

Related: Your easy guide to getting into dancing

Is it an expensive hobby?

Individual lessons can end up being expensive as you are the only one paying the teacher for their time – this can be around £35 per hour. But if you join a group, the fee drops dramatically as you share the cost. It can be as little as £5 per hour, for example, and even free if the class is part of a local community or council project.

I don’t like classical music. What are my options?

Ballroom dancing includes many different styles not just waltzes. You could try the cha cha cha, jive, tango or the rumba, all of which are danced to different types of music.

Do I need to be fit?

“A motto springs to mind, 'If you can walk in, you will dance out’,” says Miles. “Dancing is a great way to get fit and you can take it at your own pace to start with.”

It’s a form of low-impact aerobic exercise so while you can expect to see many of the same benefits as someone who regularly jogs, for example – a stronger heart, toned muscles, losing weight – your joints won’t suffer as much.

I’m clumsy. Can I still try it?

Absolutely. Clumsiness is often a result of poor coordination and ballroom dancing helps to improve that. With a good instructor, you’ll take it slowly and find that over time and with lots of practise, your clumsiness is replaced by the ability to move across the dance floor with poise and grace.

Search online for classes near you, or look at these sites which list many dance schools and classes around the UK:

www.dancesport.uk.com/studios/

www.bdconline.org/dance_schools

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.