This fun exercise could help postmenopausal heart health

A new study finds doing this activity three times a week is great for overall health

woman dancing in a white background
(Image credit: Getty)

Dancing could be the key to losing weight and boosting heart health, according to a new study. Published in Menopause, the journal of The North American Menopause Society, the study found that postmenopausal women who danced three times a week changed their metabolic health and body composition, and also boosted self-esteem. 

Researchers asked 36 sedentary women to dance three times a week for 90 minutes for 16 weeks. They measured the participants’ triglyceride levels, HDL cholesterol, capacity for exercise, and self-esteem. At the end of the study, the women had lower triglycerides, higher HDL (good cholesterol) levels, increased stamina, and a more positive self image. 

“We expected improvement in body composition, functional fitness, self-image and self-esteem,” Camila Buonani da Silva, a professor at Sao Paulo State University in Brazil and one of the authors of the study, told TODAY. “Although we asked not to change eating habits, there was an improvement in the lipid profile, which surprised us. We believe that this improvement occurred because women started to take care of themselves more when they began to feel the benefits of regular physical activity.”

The study shows that exercise is important, but it doesn’t have to be boring or overly difficult to be effective. Ballroom dancing, hip-hop classes, adult ballet classes, or simply dancing around the living room for 90 minutes all count as forms of dance exercise. 

“It’s not particularly onerous,” Faubion told TODAY. “It’s something fun.”

She said she hoped the study would encourage women to engage in exercise more often, and to find a type of physical activity they love in order to improve their health after menopause. An OB-GYN not involved with the study agreed. 

“We often talk about the importance of exercise and movement as part of a lot of pieces of menopausal health,” Dr. Helena Pietragallo, an OB-GYN at UPMC Magee Womens Hospital Midlife Health Center told TODAY. “This is really interesting, looking at something that we don’t generally think of as a typical mode of exercise. It’s great because it’s looking at something that might be really attractive to some women that they might not think of as being their usual 30 minutes of exercise.”

Rebecca Holland is a travel and food writer based in Chicago. She has written for the Guardian, New York Times, Architectural Digest, Food & Wine, Wine Enthusiast and more. She is currently a graduate student at Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism. When not working, you can find her eating her way through Chicago's neighborhoods, or in non-pandemic times, traveling around the world.