Sally Sammon, center, dances during the Zumba Gold fitness class. Experts say dancing offers many health benefits.

Are you in need of a new workout routine? Chances are, when you think about working out, dancing may not be the first thing that comes to mind. However, exercise doesn't have be regimented or in a group fitness class. You can break a sweat and have fun dancing to your favorite music just about anywhere. Not only is it fun, it also has lasting effects on your health.

Here are the top 5 benefits, as I see it:

1. Weight control and muscle tone. There are many styles of dance; some slow and steady and some that are quick and calculated. Whichever you choose to engage in, you can be sure that you are burning calories and improving muscle tone at the same time. Many people tend to overlook the importance of building muscle but if you have more muscle, your body will burn more calories throughout the day, thus increasing your resting metabolic rate. Get fit and have fun? Yes, please.

2. Posture. Good posture has to be maintained. Long hours at a desk or too much time hunched over a laptop will lead to back pain and possible curvature of the spine. When we dance, we have to remember to keep our chins and chests up and shoulders back. This type of practice will not only improve our posture and prevent back pain, it will also aid in digestion and breathing.

3. Balance and flexibility. These two skills are necessary not only in dance but also in everyday life and especially as we age. Being able to stand on one foot or bend over and touch the toes is surprisingly difficult for many people (at all stages of life). Dancing not only improves your balance and flexibility, but it increases your confidence and blood flow at the same time. A warm-up and cool-down are essential before and after any dancing session.

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4. Improved mood. When we dance, our brains release neurotransmitters known as endorphins. Have you ever heard of the "runner's high"? After prolonged exercise, such as running or dancing, endorphins and other compounds trigger this euphoric response. Sometimes, we need a little encouragement to get on the dance floor, but once you do, you'll be happy you did.

5. Making memories with friends. Being able to share your love of dance with someone special is a great bonding activity. Though choreographing a dance is particularly exhilarating, just letting your body move to the music is equally entertaining. The great thing about dance is that it enables you to paint a picture of the music using your body as the brush.

I've been dancing since the age of 3 and it’s still one of my favorite activities. When I'm dancing, the world melts away and it's just me and the music.

So, don’t just sit there, join me and bust a move.

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Kristin Bogdonas is the Nutrition & Wellness Educator for University of Illinois Extension serving Henry, Mercer, Rock Island and Stark Counties. To contact her about health and wellness programs, call 309-756-9978.