In the world of reality television, dancing programs have become a popular choice for many viewers.  Fortunately, this extends beyond the couch, as many people have begun taking dance classes or dancing with a favorite partner in their spare time.

While dancing makes for a fun and enjoyable activity, people may not realize that it also provides a host of benefits for physical and mental health.  Here are five healthful benefits of dancing:

1.  Promotes Weight Loss

On average, dancing burns approximately 240 calories an hour for a person weighing 150 pounds; but calories burned can increase or decrease, depending on how fast or slow the dance style.  While the tango comes in at less than 200 calories per hour, one hour of swing dancing burns up about 350 calories.  Aerobic dancing burns even more calories and a study published in The Journal of Physiological Anthropology found that dancing is as effective for weight loss as cycling or jogging.

2.  Lifts Spirits

One of the best benefits of dancing is its ability to lift the spirits as evidenced by research.  One study looked at the effects of dancing on people suffering from depression.  Subjects who participated in an upbeat group dance showed fewer depressive symptoms and reported more energy than people who did not participate.

3.  Lubricates Joints and Enhances Flexibility

Dancing keeps the joints lubricated, which helps relieve stiffness.  Ballet and modern dance also help increase flexibility which soothes joint pain and post-exercise soreness.  People can experience similar benefits by doing gentle yoga or performing simple stretches at home.

4.  Improves Heart Health

By raising the heart rate, dancing is a beneficial activity for people at risk for cardiovascular disease.  An Italian study showed that people with a history of heart failure who engaged in waltzing improved heart and blood vessel function, breathing, and overall quality of life, as much as people participating in moderate exercise programs.

5.  Boosts Brain Function

Related:  Prevent Alzheimer's Disease with Exercise

A study published in The New England Journal of Medicine found that dancing and other forms of aerobic exercise may enhance memory and prevent the development of dementia that comes with aging.  This happens because aerobic exercise prevents loss of brain mass and even reverses it in the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for memory.

In addition to being festive and fun, dancing offers a number of advantages to the health.  Benefits of dancing include weight loss, improved mood, better flexibility, heart health, and brain function.  As if that weren't enough, studies show that dancing helps improve balance, posture, and energy levels in adult subjects.  A dance class also offers the ideal opportunity to make new friends and social connections.