Why Dance is Possibly the Best Activity for Kids
Dance classes are low in physical activity, study says, but there's more to the story.
When I was growing up, the kids (mostly girls) in my school who studied dance seemed even more athletic than the jocks and the gym class heroes. They were slender, but solid, with long, strong limbs that could contort in ways that defied everything I'd learned about the limitations of the human body. Surely, those abilities were the result of a strict practice regimen that required physical endurance and raw talent.
A new study from UC San Diego paints a different picture. It says that typical dance classes for children and adolescents only involve "moderate-to-vigorous" physical activity for less than one-third of their total duration. The study considered seven different types of dance, including hip-hop, ballet, tap, and jazz. These classes lasted an average of 49 minutes, meaning that students would engage in about 17 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity while in attendance. This figure falls short of the CDC-recommended 30 minutes of exercise that kids should receive outside of school.
"This is a very commonly used opportunity for young people, especially girls, to be physically active and we find that they are inactive most of the time during dance classes," said James Sallis, professor of family medicine and public health. "We see this as a missed opportunity to get kids healthier."
Even though I have about as much aptitude for dance as the computer I'm typing on, I know that merely measuring the amount of physical activity undertaken in classes doesn't tell the whole story. Learning to dance is not like running on a treadmill; it's an artform that requires focus, precise technique, and attention to detail. The study notes that when dance students are not engaged in physical activity, they might be "standing, listening, or stretching." Dance classes require students to learn from a teacher's expertise, and, often, to work in a group. While doing so may not be physical, it certainly benefits a child's communication, cooperation, and ability to follow directions.
Indeed, the study acknowledges the non-physical advantages of studying dance. "Though there are important social, developmental, cultural, and aesthetics benefits of dance that should be maintained and strengthened, it should be possible to increase physical activity," said Sallis.
That may be true, but increasing physical activity could negatively impact other aspects of dance instruction. Dance gets kids moving, but it's also important that they maintain proper choreography and technique. Most dance teachers draw on years of experience in their field, and have a sense of how to balance the artistic and athletic elements of the craft. And while the times recorded in the study left children about 40 percent short of their recommended daily exercise, the research failed to consider the time that students spent practicing outside of the classroom.
Don't underestimate the power of play when it comes to problem-solving.
- As we get older, the work we consistently do builds "rivers of thinking." These give us a rich knowledge of a certain kind of area.
- The problem with this, however, is that as those patterns get deeper, we get locked into them. When this happens it becomes a challenge to think differently — to break from the past and generate new ideas.
- How do we get out of this rut? One way is to bring play and game mechanics into workshops. When we approach problem-solving from a perspective of fun, we lose our fear of failure, allowing us to think boldly and overcome built patterns.
Controversial map names CEOs of 100 companies producing 71 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions.
- Just 100 companies produce 71 percent of the world's greenhouse gases.
- This map lists their names and locations, and their CEOs.
- The climate crisis may be too complex for these 100 people to solve, but naming and shaming them is a good start.
The surprising results come from a new GLAAD survey.
- The survey found that 18- to 34-year-old non-LGBTQ Americans reported feeling less comfortable around LGBTQ people in a variety of hypothetical situations.
- The attitudes of older non-LGBTQ Americans have remained basically constant over the past few years.
- Overall, about 80 percent of Americans support equal rights for LGBTQ people.
SMARTER FASTER trademarks owned by The Big Think, Inc. All rights reserved.