Why "Dancing with the Stars" is telling us now is the time to start dancing

Nov 18, 2011, 8:42 a.m.

Love it or hate it, Dancing With the Stars is a show that's making two critically important statements. First, it's serving to draw a distinct line between real dancing and lewd gesticulation, something that all too often passes for "expressive art" these days. And second, it's reminding people that there are some activities that'll keep you young forever.

Just look at what Cloris Leachman taught us about what you can at the ripe old age of 82. Maybe dancing won't ensure that you live to see the age of 120, but it's certainly a safer alternative to channel surfing--or sitting around watching faded stars take to the dance floor as if each sashay would leave a little magic in its wake.

Here's what we know about the health benefits of dancing:

Dancing makes your bones stronger. Strengthening your bones is critical to staying healthy, the older you get. Dancing is a great cardiovascular exercise that gets your heart pumping. Dancing forces you to focus on your posture, something that has a direct impact on keeping your muscles in shape. Dancing builds muscles you never knew you had. Dancing keeps your mind in shape. There's a lot of memorizing that goes into learning choreographed steps, and every neuron that fires off in the process is like a pushup for your brain.

Dancing makes you laugh and smile. And that last one could be the greatest benefit of all. So what if you can't tear up the dance floor like you used to? Who cares that you've got two left feet and most of your time on the dance floor is spent apologizing to your partner for stepping on his or her toes? Do Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers turn over in their graves every time you put on your favorite piece of music and clear out a space to move around? In the end, all that really matters is that you're out there taking a swing at it and enjoying every new "step" there is to take.

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