Regardless of gender or generation, more and more people are moving to the dance floor for a workout that is exciting and effective. Though dance fitness is considered a fun full-body calorie blaster, like other physical activities, it isn’t risk-free. If you’ve embraced dance for your workout, here are some tips to make sure you keep dancing injury-free.
Dance-related injuries to the lower body are common
“For avid dance fitness goers, the most common injuries are repetitive strain injuries which occur when there is too much stress placed on weak points of the body for long durations of time,” says Andrea Wilson, a former ballet dancer & physical trainer.
The most common injuries are to the foot, ankle, knee & lower back, most often occurring when dance enthusiasts are fatigued (read: too much dance, not enough recovery) or have recently changed their workout parameters (type of exercise, frequency or intensity).
The most common types of strain injuries:
- Medial tibial stress syndrome (shin splints)
- Anterior knee pain
- Lower back strain
- Traumatic or sudden injuries, such as ankle sprains, can also occur.
Though dance is considered a safe & effective modality of fitness, some types of dance can put you at higher risk for injuries, such as ballet, are more injury-prone than other forms of dance. Ballet, in particular, has a very high incidence of injury because of the extreme stresses and demands it places on the body. However, any type of dance that involves repetitive impact also puts dance goers at higher risk for injury, particularly for dance participants who are not well prepared for the repetitive movements & positions.
Tips to Avoid dance-related injuries:
Don’t let the potential for injury deter your dance fitness enjoyment – all forms of physical activity present some level of risk. Simply be smart about your dance workouts. Here’s how.
#1: Don’t be Extreme
In order to avoid dance-related injuries and safely & effectively partake in dance fitness it is essential to gradually increase frequency, intensity the duration of your exercise.
#2: Take the time to Warm up
Stretch gently & always warm up with a few minutes of light exercise before a dance class allowing your muscles to loosen & warm-up & you will be better prepared for a dance-fitness workout.
- Cardiovascular Exercise: The first part of every warmup routine should be cardiovascular exercise to get blood flowing to your muscles. Start your warmup routine with five to 15 minutes of cardiovascular exercise such as jogging, marching in place or skipping. Do this aerobic activity until you feel your pulse increasing and you start to break a sweat. Do not include in your warmup routine any aerobic motions that require extensive flexibility, such as kicks or high knee lifts.
- Dynamic Stretching: Once blood is flowing to your muscles, engage in dynamic or active stretching. In this type of stretching, common motions used in dance should be performed to ready your muscles for action. Straight-leg swings, high knee lifts, torso twists & arm circles are all dynamic stretching motions you may include in this portion of your warmup routine. A dynamic stretching routine must include stretches for all major muscle groups from head to toe. Execute eight to 10 repetitions of each motion in a fluid, dynamic fashion. Start with a smaller range of motion — for example, a low kick forward and swinging back — increasing your range with each repetition.
- Static Stretching: Because of the high degree of flexibility required in dancing, it is important to incorporate some static stretching into your warmup routine as well. Static stretches are those that are held in a stationary position. For example, include leg stretching at the ballet bar, lifting one leg up onto the bar and leaning forward, aiming your nose for your knee. Include many static stretches for your legs and also a few for your upper body and arms. Hold these static stretch positions for 30 seconds. Repeat each static stretch three times.
- Increasing Flexibility: Stretches to increase flexibility should not be part of your warmup routine. Flexibility gains are better made at the end of your practice when your muscles are supple & thoroughly warmed up from your workout. Static stretches alone or with a partner are the best way for you to increase your flexibility. Stretch your muscle until you feel a gentle stretch & then hold that position. When aiming to increase flexibility, do not bounce or stretch to the point where you feel pain.
#3: Cool down Properly
- It is extremely important to allow time for a proper cool down & more intensive stretching after class.
- This will prevent lactic acid build-up & any unnecessary injuries that might occur if you simply walk out of the class & head on with the rest of your day.
#4: Focus on Proper technique
- Watch your dance instructor to learn proper dance technique as well as ask questions about moves you are unsure about.
- Proper technique is a key ingredient in the prevention of dance-related injuries. Turning your body the wrong direction or holding a position incorrectly can instantly lead to injuries.
- Also, listen to your body – if something doesn’t feel right, don’t do it.
#5: Footwear counts
Before you do a dance-fitness class, ask the dance instructor for recommendations on the best footwear for that particular type of dance. You might be able to get away with your regular running shoes for a class here & there, but if you plan on partaking frequently, you can prevent unwarranted injuries by investing in appropriate shoes.
- No doubt you get a full-body workout in most dance fitness classes, but doing only one type of workout puts you at risk for injury.
- Many injuries can be prevented with improved posture, flexibility & strength. That means instead of only doing dance classes every week, get in a couple days of strength training, a Pilates class & another type of cardiovascular workout. Not only will you reduce your risk of injury, you will also get more fit and avoid single-workout burn out.
You’re hurt, now what?
If you do happen to get a dance-related injury, you can put yourself on a fast road to recovery by refraining from dance classes – and other workouts that exacerbate the injury – and following the PRICE approach. Remember the acronym PRICE – protect the tissues, rest, ice, compress, and elevate an injury. And for persistent problems, see a physical therapist for specific recommendations & exercises.
Also Check out out Post Dance to Fitness-Part 1