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Thinking on Your Feet: Ballet for Adults

Ballet is a powerful workout that connects many aspects of fitness: strength, endurance, flexibility, balance, speed, agility and coordination. While most of us may have visions of pint-sized ballerinas twirling beautiful pirouettes, ballet for adults is growing in popularity as a means of staying fit and stress-free.

If you spend most of your days at a desk, running errands or carting toddlers or grandchildren around, your posture could probably use a little (or a lot of) work. Great posture may look nice, but more importantly, it is essential to maintaining good health; studies have shown that poor posture leads to an array of ailments, including depression, muscles aches and constipation. Standing correctly—spine straightened and hips squared— is one of the seven rules of classical dance, which were developed in 1723 and are the foundation of everything that follows. Many forms involve pulling your shoulders back and elongating your neck, correcting absentminded posture.

Although it may seem like flexibility is a natural trait, it is gained through practice. Ballet involves vigorous stretching and allows your joins to experience a full range of motion when they otherwise may not, preventing ailments such as tendinitis and increasing your body’s overall flexibility.

Brain Power
While ballet actively engages all of your muscles, it also engages your brain. Professional ballet dancers don’t get dizzy; a study published by online journal Cerebral Cortex showed that the brains of longpracticing ballerinas have adapted to reduce the cerebral cortex (the area of the brain responsible for making us feel dizzy), making dancers less susceptible to the spins. Further, a 2013 study showed that learning complex dance sequences improves working memory and reaction time.

Stress Reduction
Ballet requires laser sharp focus—one cannot simply show up to class and go through the motions. Techniques are highly nuanced and every inch of your body matters; as you concentrate on perfecting your forms, the world beyond the barre will melt away, giving your brain a retreat from everyday stress. Plus, what could be more soothing than listening to classical music while perfecting your positions?

Those who practice ballet on a regular basis (2-3 times per week) develop long, lean muscle over time. In ballet, you regularly use muscles you otherwise may not: quadriceps, hamstrings, hip and gluteal muscles, calves, feet and back. And let’s not forget your core; every move you make as a ballerina emanates from your core, meaning your abs are fully engaged while you are busting out those beautiful plies.

Ballet is an art form that few have mastered, meaning there will always be something new for you to learn. The nature of ballet ensures you will be met with an ever-rising bar, and as you gain new skills, new challenges emerge.

Check out your local dance company and try your hand (or feet, rather) at one of their Adult Ballet classes!

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