Health: Dance your way to fitness and have fun

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If you want to keep fit but are not a fan of the gym, getting up at an unearthly hour to run a half-marathon before breakfast or battling your way around a rugby field, then tripping the light fantastic may be the answer.

Dancing has never been so popular; TV shows such as Strictly Come Dancing and Britain’s Got Talent have been taken to the heart of the nation and have fuelled a dance craze not seen for many a year.

According to the NHS, who are promoting dance as a form of valuable exercise, it is the UK’s fastest growing art form.

More than 4.8 million people regularly attend community dance groups each year in England alone.

And it doesn’t matter what style you favour. Whether you like to jump or jive, tap or tango, dancing is one of the most enjoyable ways to get some exercise.

If you go dancing regularly it is great for losing weight, maintaining strong bones, improving posture and muscle strength, increasing balance and co-ordination and beating stress.

And it doesn’t matter how old you are, or how young, for that matter.

A group of older people are taking part this week in a dance and movement performance at the West Yorkshire Playhouse, the oldest of whom is 87-years-old, the youngest 62.

And at the other end of the age spectrum, Northern Ballet, one of the UK’s leading dance companies, has been working with three children’s centres in Leeds .

This year 31 children under the age of three and their parents were involved in the five-week project. It included creative movement and play sessions to explore a selection of children’s classic stories through the use of props to create sensory experiences.

Speaking about the project, Northern Ballet’s dance education officer Sophie Alder said: “Northern Ballet believes in the importance of providing access to dance for people in the community of all ages, backgrounds and abilities.

If you’re new to dance and are a little unsure where to begin, go along to a dance school.

Most accredited schools hold beginners’ courses and welcome people with disabilities.

They are friendly and a great way to socialise. If you don’t want to go on your own, get a friend to go with you.

Classes can cost as little as £5-10 for a 90-minute session. If the first class you try falls short of your expectations, don’t be put off.

Wear comfortable clothing that gives you freedom of movement.

Some classes – such as ballet, tap or jazz – may require specialist footwear, depending on your level. Avoid wearing jewellery – such as earrings, rings and necklaces – which can scratch you or get caught in clothing.

FIND A DANCE CLASS

To find dance classes near you: www.danceuk.org

Find your nearest accredited school or teacher contact (CDET): www.cdet.org.uk/

The Exercise Movement & Dance Partnership website: http://emdp.org/

Dance Near You has a database of 1,000-plus dance classes of all levels: www.dancenearyou.co.uk

To get into wheelchair dancing contact the Wheelchair Dance Sport Association. at http://wdsauk.co.uk/

Tim Marshall has travelled the world covering foreign affairs for Sky News.

How Leeds United fan Tim Marshall went from painting and decorating to broadcasting from war zones