Youth Dance Classes Do Not Always Meet Physical Movement Guidelines

A new study by UC San Diego School of Medicine found that in some cases, dance classes may not be providing enough exercise for kids.

Children attending dance classes may not be getting enough physical activity, according to one UC San Diego School of Medicine study.

A study published Monday examined the activity levels of girls aged five to 18 that attended a variety of dance classes and found that in most of these youth dance classes, children participated in a limited amount of physical activity.

Only a little more than a third of class time in youth dance classes was spent doing moderate-to-vigorous physical activity. For the rest of the class time, children were standing, listening or stretching, researchers found.

“This is a very commonly used opportunity for young people, especially girls, to be physically active and we find that they are inactive most of the time during dance classes,” said senior author James Sallis, PhD, professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Public Health, in a statement. “We see this as a missed opportunity to get kids healthier.”

Half of American youth do not meet physical activity guidelines set by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which state that children and teens should be participate in moderate-to-vigorous activity for at least 60 minutes a day.

On average, the children were more likely to be active than their teenage counterparts.

Not all types of dance measured out to be the same for the girls. The study looked at ballet, jazz, hip-hop, flamenco, salsa/ballet folklorico, tap and partnered dance, such as ballroom or swing.

“We found that not all dance types are created equal,” said Kelli Cain, the study’s first author. “For example, hip-hop came out among the top in activity level for both children and adolescents while flamenco was the least active for both groups.”

Study participants said on average they spent an average of 17 minutes in each averaged 49 minute class doing moderate-to-vigorous physical activity. Only 8 percent of kids and 6 percent of adults met the CDC’s recommended physical activity level during dance.

The study gathered data from 264 girls across San Diego County in 66 dance classes. Those girls wore accelerometer devices around their waist that recorded their movement.

In addition to Cain, the study was also co-authored by Kavita Gavand and Patricia Rincon from UCSD; Terry Conway, Edith Bonilla, and Nicole Bracy from UCSD and San Diego State University; and Emma Peck from San Diego State University.

Contact Us