Many parents sign their kids up for dance classes, not only because kids like them but because it provides much-needed exercise.

A new study, though, finds physical activity in many youth dance programs quite low – just a third of class time on average.

“In a lot of these settings where you would expect children to be quite active, they’re spending the majority of their time just standing around,” Dr. Jim Sallis said.

Sallis and his colleagues at the University of California, San Diego measured the amount of moderate to vigorous physical activity of students at 21 different dance studios. 

Kids wore accelerometers during class.

Hip hop provided the most movement for young children, more than half of a 50-minute class. But some types of dance like flamenco only recorded four minutes of activity.

Teenage dancers got the most exercise in ballet, but still only 16 minutes in a nearly hour-long class.

“They were busy, they were doing things, they were learning. But um not being as active as perhaps some of their parents might want them to be,” Sallis said.

Previous research has shown girls tend to be more sedentary than boys. Researchers say it’s a good reason to tap into girls’ natural affinity for dance.

“We see this as a really special opportunity to get girls active in something they enjoy,” Sallis said.

Without question dance does offer many benefits, strengthening muscles and bones, improving balance. 

But the study suggests dance studios may consider raising the bar when it comes to exercise.

Researchers say dance is more active than some sports, like softball, and any sport is better than sitting around the house.

The new research is published in the journal Pediatrics.

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