Benefits to Dance & Cheerleading
By: Brenna Davis
Although dance and cheerleading are occasionally misconstrued as light sports that are less physically demanding than competitive sports, both dance and cheerleading require extraordinary physical fitness. While the movements required in each sport differ, the sports are similar in that they both require flexibility, strength and extensive training. Both sports can offer a significant quantity of exercise with substantial calorie burning in addition to several other benefits.
Flexibility is a hallmark of both dance and cheerleading. Participants in these sports may perform frequent splits, extending their legs well past the average person's range of flexibility. Over time, this increases the muscles' range of motion. According to "Principles of Injury Prevention," published by the International Association of Athletics Federations, flexibility is correlated with decreased risk of injury. Muscle flexibility promotes healthy muscle development, which decreases aches and pains. However, this is only true when flexibility is increased over time. Intentional overextension of a muscle can cause injury.
Dancers and cheerleaders frequently engage in extended periods of moderate-intensity exercise. Examples of this type of exercise include leaping, jumping and floor routines. These exercises increase the heart rate, which can improve cardiovascular health over time. Cardiovascular exercise lowers blood pressure, decreases risk of heart attack and stroke and improves stamina. In a 1983 study published in "Clinical Sports Medicine," researchers found that improvements in cardiovascular fitness among dancers correlated with the degree of intensity, duration and frequency of exercise. While most cheerleading programs use similar movements and exercises, there are many varieties of dance. More intense dance routines will result in stronger cardiovascular health.
Cheerleaders must often support and lift other cheerleaders in pyramids and other formations. Most dancers need to lift their own weight through jumps and leaps. These activities provide strength training, which results in larger, healthier muscles and can also increase the number of calories you burn in an hour. Strong muscles help to support bones, reducing the likelihood of bone breakage. Strength training also reduces muscle pain.
Support and Socialization
Cheerleading is a team sport that requires participants to trust one another. This team building can be beneficial to self-esteem and can encourage healthy social development. While dance is not always a team sport, it typically requires regular classes and interaction with others. Dancers must work together during class and, in partner dancing, engage in activities very similar to those of team sports. Both dance and cheerleading offer vital opportunities for socialization and building camaraderie among people with similar interests. Developmental psychologist Richard Weissbourd points out in his book, "The Parents We Mean to Be," that group sports can encourage fair competition, help children develop strong morals, protect against negative outside influences and decrease the likelihood of developing depression and anxiety.