Shimmy, Shimmy! 8 Bellydance Benefits for Health


Article by Cristal G. Orpilla, R.N.


More than just seductive gyrations to the likes of Shakira, bellydance is one of the world’s most ancient forms of exercise. As a dancer and teacher of this art, I have come to realize the many health benefits that bellydance has to offer. Bellydance can be enjoyed by all: anyone and everyone , regardless of age, shape, weight, and body type, can benefit from this dance.


Ancient bellydance is a healthy exercise


1. Bellydance helps to build strong bones and muscles
Bellydance is considered as a weight-bearing exercise because you remain on your feet as you perform intricate movements. Weight-bearing exercises aid in preventing osteoporosis and  help to strengthen bones by increasing bone density. It also helps to tone all major muscle groups: neck, back, arms, hands, abdomen, thighs, legs, glutes, and calves. With proper posture and correct movements,  belly dancing extends the muscles to help release tension, particularly in the abs and back. This leads to strengthening the lower back and helping to prevent or ease back pain. The fast movements, primarily the hip and shoulder shimmies, offer cardiovascular benefits because it is a form of aerobic exercise that makes you break into a healthy sweat.


2. Belly dance is a low impact form of exercise
Because bellydancing is low impact it doesn’t jolt or jar the body, making it very safe and unlikely to cause injury or damage to the joints. Bellydance works in harmony with the body, instead of against it, because it is based on movements that come naturally to the human form. The graceful hip drops, rolls, and pivots of this dance form utilize muscle groups in the abdomen, pelvis, trunk, spine, and neck,  which all help to build a powerful core.


3. Belly dance helps to aid in weight loss
Depending on the level of intensity, bellydancing can burn as much as 300 calories per hour. Combined with a healthy diet that involves a well-balanced meals and  proper nutritional supplements, bellydance can undoubtedly be part of a sound weight loss program.


4. Bellydance is a great way to reduce stress and tension
Smooth swaying, circular and flowing movements are comparable to a state of dance-like meditation. I  often find that a session of slow, graceful dancing will clear the mind and induce a state of mental relaxation. The faster forms of belly dance are stimulating and fun, and a positive way of expressing frustrations.  Because certain muscle isolations make you think about a movement before it is delivered by the body,  a higher sense of mental awareness is also needed. Fast combinations also help to increase mental concentration while appropriately matching beats and movements.



[media-credit id=2 align=”alignnone” width=”198″]Belly-Dance[/media-credit]

5. Belly dancing is empowering and helps to boost self-esteem
The movements of bellydance are artistic and feminine, which creates a positive feeling of confident sensual expression and freedom. With sensuality being a desirable quality for every woman, a dancer feels safe to explore the many beautiful ways the body can move. In the physical act of dancing with sensuality, the dancer frees herself both physically and emotionally. The body, which becomes increasingly  flexible, supple, and graceful through dance practice, literally learns to move more beautifully. Many dancers experience a heightened sense of elegance, grace, and poise when they dance.  This wonderful confidence remains and becomes part of the way one carries herself.


6. Belly dancing can help to calm pre-menstrual symptoms
Bellydance movements such as snake arms, figure 8’s, and undulations are very soothing and fluid, and  can help to relieve feelings of  tension in the pelvic area. Simultaneously, is helps to increase circulation that aids in alleviating feelings of stress.


7. Belly dance is useful as part of prenatal care
A strong core helps for natural child-birthing. Bellydance movements make for an excellent prenatal exercise regimen that will strengthen the core muscles used during the childbirth process. Movements such as hip tucks and rocks are similar to the “pelvic rocking”  exercises taught during prenatal classes and demonstrate to the expectant mother how to maneuver the pelvis. Bellydance discipline aims to emphasize muscle control that not only facilitates natural childbirth, but also makes an excellent post-natal exercise that helps encourage abdominal tone to quickly shed the excess pregnancy weight.


8. Bellydance strengthens you on multiple levels
My bellydance teacher is a beautifully vivacous woman who shared with me how bellydance has been her escape and haven from the hardships she had undergone in her life.  A single mother and divorcee,  she was first intrigued by the exotic movements of bellydance.  She said bellydance helped her to connect with herself and with other women through that difficult time.  A few years later,  she was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent chemotherapy that drained her physically and emotionally.  She said teaching bellydance was the passion that kept her energies up and motivated her to get well.  It has now been over 25 years since she started her art,  yet she still turns to it for solace until this day.  Despite surgeries and procedures for a weak knee,  I am amazed how she is able to maintain her level of optimism and energy,  an energy that is double that of the twenty-something girls (including myself) that attend her evening classes.  She truly attributes her physical, emotional, and mental dexterity through years of dance.


So remember:  A strong woman wears the look of confidence on her face, but a woman of strength wears grace. Go on and shimmy your way to health and well-being. Happy Dancing!



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Online Editor, Beauty Writer at Beauty-Goodies
As a New York City-based registered nurse with backgrounds in pharmacology, medical research, medical spa aesthetics, and cosmetic dermatology, Cristal became interested in the ways people go about achieving beauty. When she's not working full-time at Cornell Medical Center or performing aesthetic treatments at a midtown NYC medical spa, she daylights as a beauty writer, and has a penchant for scoring sample sale treasures, bellydancing, playing dress-up, and of course, chatting about beauty goodies.

Latest posts by Cristal (see all)

35 thoughts on “Shimmy, Shimmy! 8 Bellydance Benefits for Health

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  9. danspest7

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  13. Sheila Matthews

    I have been asked to speak of the benefits of belly dance for a breast cancer support group meeting and I find that your article tells it all! I would love to share it with the ladies at the meeting with your permission.
    Sheila Matthews

  14. Diane C Schroller-Tortorello

    Great article! I’ve been dancing for over 16 years! I call bellydance my happy place for many reasons. Aside from all the attributes you listed here the friendships forged from meeting other dancers create a bond, like a sisterhood that lasts a lifetime!

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  16. Shmuel D.

    This article is, to be sure, chock-full of useful, inspirational, and fun information regarding bellydance. I have one issue with its wording, nevertheless. Throughout the article, I find words such as “sisterhood” and “strong woman”, along with references to such health conditions as PMS. Is this automatically an inappropriate situation? By all means, no. The trouble with mentioning the health benefits of bellydance only as they would apply to women is this: Not all bellydancers are women, and those who aren’t might desire to read more of the author’s fascinating work (truly so) as it would apply to their own bodies. I say this as a man who has been bellydancing for over a decade, with the vast majority of my learning taking place with my great teacher, Gina. She has a rule in her classes, that men and boys are most welcome to take part in the classes, as long as they are respectful. I believe that everybody in my classes knows that I am gay; Thus, there hasn’t ever seemed to be an issue of staring or the like.
    Another category of people who might want more specific information would be those who are in some way part of the transgender community. For example, some bellydancers will look like guys, but will identify with no particular gender or biological sex, some bellydancers will appear to be female, but will identify as being male, and so on. Cristal’s article is extremely well-written, and she deserves strong congratulations for her work in promoting an art-form that can display a rainbow of health benefits. My one suggestion is, simply, this: The art of bellydancing promotes more than just a sisterhood. It may not be all that common, to be sure, but with a slight expansion of the healthy thoughts and values that Cristal has promoted, bellydance is not just a sisterhood. It is a community of coins, a kinship of zills, and above all, a union of people who desire more out of their exercise routine than a firmer tuchus. We want rhythm and peace, and it is people such as Cristal who help, with articles such as this one, to spread these types of excellence.

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