By Ballet Fusion, Oct. 2019
Because ballet uses the full range of muscles, it’s also great for cognitive functions such as coordination and concentration.
We all know that ballet is great for posture and balance but did you know that adult ballet can also reduce the symptoms of depression, arthritis and diabetes? And there’s more, ballet has also been shown to fend off dementia and osteoporosis. Read on for all the amazing benefits of adult ballet.
Improves muscle strength
Great for mindfulness and calming
Increases metabolic rate
Great for expression
Improves self confidence
Assists with lymph drainage
Fends off dementia
Keeps bones strong
BALLET IMPROVES FLEXIBILITY
Ballet training involves stretching of many major and minor muscle groups. Ballet stretches muscles in all parts of the body; legs, arms, torso, back, neck, feet… the list goes on. Through increased stretching with body weight exercises (which are all ballet exercises by the way), muscles become longer, stronger and more resistant to tearing or strain. The more you attend adult ballet classes, the more flexible your muscles will become.
BALLET IMPROVES MUSCLE TONE
You use so many muscles when you dance - to balance, bend, stretch, spring and jump. Each move strengthens and shapes the muscles. This reshaping of our muscles is what we call ‘toning’. The beautiful thing about toning through adult ballet is that it’s very hard to ‘over-bulk’ because we’re only supporting and lifting our own body weight. At the same time we are constantly stretching the muscles - which elongates them and results in that great ballerina shape.
BALLET IMPROVES MUSCLE STRENGTH Adult ballet is a wonderful way to improve muscle strength. The legs, back and core are the main muscle groups which will benefit from strengthening though ballet exercises but we also strengthen our arm muscles as well as neck and foot muscles. Each bend, stretch, lift, jump and twist builds our muscles making them stronger. Repeated use of the same muscles will increase strength more quickly. Each time we use a muscle, it heals and rebuilds to become stronger so even one class a week will benefit your muscles and make you stronger. Muscle strength isn’t just important for climbing the stairs and lifting boxes. A 2018 study published in The Journals of Gerontology found that people with low muscle strength were more than 50 percent more likely to die early than their peers. So having stronger muscles can help prolong your life.
BALLET LENGTHENS MUSCLES
As we get older, our muscles get tighter and shorter. We can’t actually ‘lengthen’ our muscles past their point of maximum extension but we can keep them supple and encourage them to flex further with regular exercise.
An adult ballet class packs in loads of ‘elongation exercises’. These are exercises which focus on smaller, postural muscles and a full range of motion - which are great for making lean, well flexed muscles.
BALLET IS GOOD FOR STAMINA
All exercise is good for stamina in one way or another but a 60 minute adult ballet class is a great stamina builder - as long as you don’t rest too much between exercises. Keeping your heart rate up and resting for 30-60 seconds between exercises is an ideal way to improve stamina and find a great work/rest balance for your muscles.
BALLET IS GREAT FOR COORDINATION
Ballet exercises usually require a bit of multitasking. Moving arms through a port de bras whilst lifting or bending legs for example. It can be tricky at first but the more you do this, the easier it will become and your brain and body will become more coordinated over time. Working your cognitive functions to coordinate your body with music, will benefit your coordination in other areas of your life. The fact is, coordination is something we need to practice so if you haven’t got it, keep trying. It will improve with every class.
BALLET IS GREAT FOR POSTURE
Ballet is probably THE best form of exercise for improving and maintaining your posture. Every single exercise in a ballet class requires us to hold a strong posture and it’s at the core of every position and move. Adult ballet classes are especially good for improving posture as you won’t be asked to do any awkward or uncomfortable twists or back bends. Back bends in adult ballet are always a lift of the upper back and extension of the next to protect the spine.
In adult ballet, we hold our core/abs strong and back straight whilst breathing through the exercises. Lifting the arms through the various positions allows us to create space in the spine. At the same time we are building supporting back muscles and releasing tension from the build up of bad positions (such as sitting at a desk).
The bonus? Good posture reduces our risk of injury or long term niggles.
BALLET CAN INCREASE YOUR ENERGY LEVELS
There are thousands of studies proving that exercise increases your energy levels and fights fatigue. Here’s the science bit... As we exercise, we increase circulation which works to strengthen the heart muscle. This results in increased energy available for our body - and not just during class, for a long time afterwards too. According to one study, exercise causes your brain increase production of certain brain chemicals known to have antidepressant effects, boosting energy.
Ever marvelled at those people who are always in the gym, always full of beans and seem eternally positive? Well, it’s a cycle: The more we exercise, the more energy we have to exercise and we feel great while we’re doing it!
BALLET IS GREAT FOR MINDFULNESS AND CALMING
Ballet classes consist of a exercises which range from slow to fast, to slow again. The music is often beautiful and concentration on the exercises means we are in a sure state of mindfulness. During an adult ballet class we focus on posture, balance, arms, legs, music and the coordination of all these things - leaving little time for our minds to wander. This is the essence of mindfulness and it’s magic for our state of contentment and calm.
Additionally, all those flowing movements to the beautiful music are like a gentle massage for the whole body. We release tension, increase oxygen intake and expel toxins, which all results in a beautiful state of calm during and after class.
BALLET IMPROVES CONCENTRATION AND COGNITIVE FUNCTION
Whether you’re new to adult ballet or have been dancing for years, your levels of concentration in class will always surprise you. Posture, positioning, turn-out, musicality, timing, counting beats and coordination of arms, legs and feet all require concentration. Not to mention remembering what the teacher told you at the start of the exercise and what he / she might be saying during!
We rarely get it all right but just trying is great for our concentration skills and the more we do it, the better we get at it. There’s science behind this: Exercise helps trigger endorphins. As well as being happy chemicals, endorphins improve the prioritising functions of the brain. The best bit is that even after exercise, your ability to prioritise and think clearly improves.
BALLET INCREASES YOUR METABOLISM
We all have a different metabolic rate but one thing’s for sure - adult ballet will speed up your metabolism. Because adult ballet is a total body workout, it increases your circulation, breathing rate and muscular activity which all contributes to elevating your metabolism. One report claims that ‘dancing elevates your metabolism 3-6 times above your resting metabolism’.
BALLET AND EXPRESSION
Ballet, like most forms of dance, is a wonderful, expressive form of exercise. Traditionally, ballet is a way of expressing a story. Dancers use their body, limbs, feet, hands, face and positions to express their feelings, actions and communicate with other dancers on the stage. In adult ballet, we’re rarely on the stage but we can still enjoy the expressive nature of ballet. Through our movements we can really feel the music and enjoy it’s nuances. You can use ballet to emote feelings, release stress, enjoy the freedom of movement and really express your mood. Through working on our expression in ballet, we can also improve the way we express ourselves in our day to day life. Take a moment to notice this in your next adult ballet class.
BALLET IS GREAT FOR SELF CONFIDENCE
The first adult ballet class can be a bit of a nerve-wracking experience for lots of people. You might not know anyone else in the class. You might be conscious of the mirrored walls and the fact that you can all see each other from many angles. You might be worried the teacher will single you out. But within minutes, you’ll find that everyone is in the class for the same reasons as you and you can bet that plenty of people will be at the same level with the same fears. Getting through these concerns and focusing on enjoying the class, people and movements is a great self confidence booster.
As you continue with classes you will get to know your body and what it’s capable of. You’ll surprise yourself with your ability, strength and coordination and your confidence in class will improve. Everyone who has ever danced had to step out of their comfort zone at some point to try it. This means everyone who has ever danced should be proud of themselves for doing it!
BALLET IS GREAT FOR IMPROVING BALANCE
This seems like an obvious one but adult ballet is good for balance in many ways!
Core strength is at the core (excuse the pun) of balance and adult ballet is great for core strength. Posture control, leg lifts, turns, back movements and floor work are all great for improving core strength, which in turn, helps us become better at balancing. A win, win!
Whether at the barre or in the centre, ballet exercises require balance. Every time we use our balance, we improve it. We do this by strengthening the muscles required to balance and hold our positions. At the same time, our brain sends messages to multiple muscles at the same time to hold, correct or compensate. The more we do this, the faster we learn and the better we get at it.
BALLET IS GOOD FOR LYMPH DRAINAGE
When you think about lymph drainage you probably think of a nice relaxing massage but exercise is actually another great way to detox our lymphatic system.
Why is lymph drainage important? Well, the proper functioning of the lymphatic system is critical to our health and wellbeing. Our lymph drainage system drains and detoxifies fluids in our body, enabling it to function properly and stay disease-free. In a nut-shell, it’s vital for a healthy immune system.
Exercise helps to promote lymph drainage which helps with detoxification, muscle and tissue regeneration, reduces inflammation, aids sleep, shifts cellulite and even has anti-aging effects!
BALLET RELEASES ENDORPHINS :)
Wahoo! We love endorphins… more please! It’s been proven that ballet (and other forms of dance) release more endorphins than other forms of aerobic exercise. Ballet releases endorphins in the brain which are our ‘happy chemicals’. More endorphins equals more positivity, better sleep, improved cognitive function, happier relationships and more contentment all around. Ballet has also been shown to reduce cortisol levels which results in lower stress levels. Something we could all benefit from!
BALLET AND BREATHING
Breathing during ballet is important. Not just because breathing keeps us alive ;) but because breathing properly is essential for muscle health, circulation, flexibility and fluidity. Put simply, the better we breathe during adult ballet, the better our fitness levels can become.
Every muscle in the body supports our inhalations and exhalations. When muscles are tense, it reduces our breathing capacity so big movements, like those we practice in ballet, help to relax muscles and improve breathing capacity. The more we practice good breathing techniques with relaxed muscles, the better our breathing techniques will become generally.
As well as being great for fitness levels and circulation, this is also good for reducing our anxiety levels and helping us cope with day to day stress.
Many dancers realise that they are holding their breath during exercises due to concentration. We’ve got two good tips to help you breathe better during ballet exercises:
If you are counting beats during your exercise, simply breathe in and out to the beat as you dance. This might be breathing out on a demi pliet and in as you straighten your legs or breathing in on a rise and out on a lower for example.
If you know the tune - hum along! If you are dancing to a tune you recognise, hum along quietly under your breath (or get the whole class involved!). This will force you to breathe as you dance and will put a smile on your face too :)
BALLET BURNS CALORIES
Adult ballet is a great all over body workout. In a typical 60 minute ballet class, you will burn 300 to 400 calories. As we’ve already mentioned, adult ballet increases muscle mass and as your muscles grow, you will burn more calories at rest. Good news or what?!
BALLET CAN FEND OFF DEMENTIA
It’s true! A report published in 2003 found that dancing can reduce the onset of dementia. The test studied a range of cognitive and physical activities, such as reading; writing; doing crossword puzzles; playing cards; playing musical instruments; dancing; walking; tennis; swimming and golf. The results showed that regular dancing reduced the risk of dementia by 76%, twice as much as reading.
Ballet is a mental workout as well as a physical one and this helps our minds stay sharp and elastic. As well as strengthening neural connections, ballet can help to improve our memory and mood.
BALLET CAN REDUCE ONSET OF OSTEOPOROSIS & KEEP BONES HEALTHY
Because ballet is a weight-bearing exercise, it helps bones to grow healthy and increase in strength. Ballet for adults, in conjunction with a healthy diet can increase bone strength and prevent bone loss in old age. Additionally, because ballet strengthens muscles, bones are well supported and chance of injury is reduced.