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One Secret Exercise Trick That Women Over 50 Should Try Now

Consider it your heart-health secret weapon.
FACT CHECKED BY Alex Daniel

When you think of cardio workouts, running or biking likely come to mind. But dance workouts—yes, even the Jane Fonda stuff from the '80s—can be a great way to burn some calories and boost your heart health, especially if you've hit menopause.

That's right: A new study, published in the journal Menopause, suggests that dancing might be just what the doctor ordered for women over 50 to live longer, healthier lives. Specifically, the study found that dancing was incredibly effective at improving older women's physical fitness and heart health.

Intrigued? Here's a look at what the study found—and why dancing is surprisingly great for older women. And for more exercise intel, be sure to read New Study Says Doing This One Exercise Will Add Years to Your Life.

1

Looking at the benefits of dancing

women dancing in zumba class

The small study had 36 post-menopausal women dance three times a week, 90 minutes per session, for 16 weeks. The average age of the participating women was 57. Before and after the 16 weeks of dancing, all participants had their body composition, cholesterol levels, and other stats measured. Read more: One Incredible Trick for Burning More Fat While Walking, Says Study.

2

How dancing can benefit physical fitness and heart health

Young woman dancing to music.
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The researchers found that after 16 weeks of dancing, the women had improved coordination, agility, and aerobic capability. Their self-esteem and self-image also improved.

But that's not all dancing did. According to the study authors, 16 weeks of dancing also significantly improved the women's high-density lipoprotein (HDL, aka "good cholesterol") while lowering their blood triglycerides. (However, they did have higher total cholesterol levels.) Basically, dancing—like other forms of cardio—is pretty great for your heart. And don't miss: Over 60? Here Are Some of the Best Cardio Exercises for You, Says Trainer.

3

Why this matters for older women

woman-ballroom-dancing-with-partner

These results are a huge win for older women in more ways than one. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heart disease is the leading cause of death for women. Menopausal women tend to be at a higher risk of heart disease, says the American Heart Association, due to a variety of factors including estrogen loss and increased blood pressure and low-density lipoprotein (aka bad cholesterol). So any exercise, like dancing, that benefits the heart is a plus for women.

Additionally, changes from menopause (like less bone mass) can affect women's balance and strength, making them more vulnerable to falls and fractures. Prioritizing exercises that promote balance, coordination, and more (you know, dancing) can go a long way to supporting women's longevity as well. Read more: Your New Go-To Exercises for Balance and Stability As You Age.

"This study highlights the feasibility of a simple intervention, such as a dance class three times weekly, for improving not only fitness and metabolic profile but also self-image and self-esteem in postmenopausal women," Dr. Stephanie Faubion, NAMS medical director, said in a press release.

4

Other benefits of dance workouts

Women dancing

That's not all you'll get from a dance workout. Dancing is incredibly effective for healthy weight management—as much as jogging or cycling, according to this study from the Journal of Physiological AnthropologyGiven that unwanted weight gain is a common challenge for post-menopausal women (thanks, hormone shifts!), dancing could be a good exercise to have in your arsenal.

More recent research has found that dancing can improve memory and brain health, especially in older adults. A 2021 study in the journal Neurobiology of Learning and Memory found that older adults who danced for two hours every week had healthier, "younger" brains than sedentary adults of a similar age. A 2020 PLOS One study also found that dancing can greatly improve sedentary women's mental health and quality of life.

So if you're looking for a new workout to get your heart pumping—and you're not a fan of running—consider this latest study more proof that you should try dancing. Read more: Secret Tricks for Getting a Lean Body After 50, Say Experts.

Jessie Van Amburg
Jessie Van Amburg is a freelance writer and editor who has covered health, nutrition, and lifestyle topics for top media outlets including Women's Health Magazine, TIME.com, and Well+Good. Read more
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