American Morning

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April 23rd, 2009
10:40 AM ET

How can I avoid injury during my dancing workouts?

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta answers your questions."]

From Suzy, Raleigh North Carolina

“Dr. Gupta, I saw you on “Dancing with the Stars” this week and it was great! I started dancing about three months ago and have lost about 10 pounds. I am having fun on the program but do worry about getting injured! What can I do to lower my risk?”


Hi Suzy, thanks for writing in. It’s great to hear you started dancing as a way to get fit. It’s a great way to burn calories without it feeling like a chore. The key for anyone looking to get in shape is to find a fitness routine you enjoy! You’ll stick with it longer and may even inspire a friend or two to join you.

Many dancers say they feel longer and leaner from just a few months of classes. Exercises like dancing, or even Pilates for example, impact the density of your muscle versus the size of the muscle. The muscle fibers are engaged differently from the way they would be in a person lifting weights. It is a great body-shaping activity, keeping the core engaged the entire time and toning and strengthening your muscles.

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Filed under: Dr. Gupta's Mailbag
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  1. Kevin Bailey

    The topic about injury and dancing is one I’m very interested in, particularly concerning joint damage. I’m a 55 year old male with the good fortune to live in a town where there’s a lot of great music. I dance as often as possible which for all practical purposes means every weekend, or when a good song comes on the radio. The faster the rhythm, the more energy I expend, and the quicker I get my heart and lungs going the more I enjoy it. On the one hand I’m thinking that the more demand I place on my joints, the more they’ll respond by building up the mass needed to support the demand placed upon them, like the body’s response to any other exercise. I came up with this theory from anthropology which often reports on some old bone or joint that shows evidence of an activity or behavior due to the way the bone has enlarged or otherwise developed. On the other hand, when I look at the joint in say, a leg of lamb, it seems like the interfacing surfaces are relatively delicate, soft, and thin. It doesn’t take much to scrape away that nice slippery material and hit the underlying bone. I’m sure my own joints are similarly made so I’m thinking it wouldn’t take much foot stomping to erode that part of a joint. No doubt the degree of joint flection, body weight, intensity, and duration of one’s dancing will come into play here. Perhaps, diet, shoes, and type of floor will as well. Maybe I just need a better understanding about each of these factors or maybe just understanding how joint damage really does or doesn’t appear in professional career dancers would help answer this. I’m confident that dancing is a great activity as far as the rest of my body goes, it’s only the long term effects to my joints I’m not so sure about. I’ve asked my own doctor about this, he just said, “don’t overdo it.” But that’s not an easy thing to assess. Does that mean stop if it hurts, or does hurting mean it’s already too late? Is there some other way to gauge this, or maybe I’m just overly worrying about it?

    May 11, 2009 at 12:13 pm |