Teens have an amazing variety of programs at their fingertips ranging from college prep, crafts, gaming, pop trivia, anime, and much more.  What if there was a way to combine many of these elements into one activity that is not only fun, but will have amazing health benefits as well? I bet you are thinking the same thing I am: dancing. Before I go any further, some of you may think I am crazy because there is no way teens would voluntarily dance in public, especially amongst their peers. Well, I am very excited to tell you that there is actually a way to get them to dance and have fun, but it requires us to lead by example. In other words, we got to shake our money makers so teens can see just how fun it really is.

Before I go any further, I would like to discuss some rather disturbing facts. According to the American Heart Association:

“About one in three American kids and teens is overweight or obese. The prevalence of obesity in children more than tripled from 1971 to 2011. With good reason, childhood obesity is now the No. 1 health concern among parents in the United States, topping drug abuse and smoking.”

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention also states:

“The percentage of children aged 6–11 years in the United States who were obese increased from 7% in 1980 to nearly 18% in 2012. Similarly, the percentage of adolescents aged 12–19 years who were obese increased from 5% to nearly 21% over the same period.”

Clearly, obesity is on the rise and it is something that we should address in our programs and services. For example, are we sponsoring programs, or partnering with organizations, to prevent drug and alcohol abuse? If we are, are we addressing obesity as well? If not, it’s time that we do because teens are living in a world where body shaming and weight-related bullying is rampant. Furthermore, teens literally live in a digital age where video games are much more popular than physical exercise.  If we care encouraging teens to exercise their minds with books, why can’t we encourage them to exercise their bodies as well?

This is where we talk about dancing. Dancing is an amazing way to lose weight, feel great, and have fun. How can libraries provide teens with access to physical activity that will appeal to teens? It’s called Just Dance.

Just Dance 2015 Wii UJust Dance 2014 XBOX 360Just Dance 4 PS3Just Dance 3 WiiJust Dance 2 Wii

 Just Dance a is video game (available for the Wii, Wii U, Playstation and XBOX) where teens can dance to their favorite songs and sweat the pounds away. Yes, we can actually use gaming as a way to get teens to move.  In regards to the game, itself, it is fairly intuitive where it requires users to take a minute to explore menu options. I will say that the Just Dance games vary in content where some offer warm-up segments, cool down segments, goal-setting, account settings, and the “Sweat” mode.   As an avid Just Dance user, the “Sweat” mode is AWESOME! Although it does not offer a multi-player option, one teen can lead a timed workout (20-40 minutes) and everyone will sweat. Otherwise, I highly recommend the dance crew and battle mode where teens can have a dance off or dance together.  There is a suggested calories counter, but, be honest with the teens, and explain it’s not accurate whatsoever; all that matters is they are meeting their daily exercise quotas.  The more teens dance, the more stars/points they get to open new modes and songs, which include workouts that include mash-ups and new battle modes. Some of the newer versions offer exclusive modes such as Party Master and an option to complete with other Just Dance players from the entire world called “World Party” providing you have an internet connection.  As I mentioned earlier, teens don’t need to be expert dancers because it’s all about moving, sweating, and having fun.

Now that we know there is a way to get teens to move, the next big question is: what if teens don’t engage in this program because they don’t want to be the only ones dancing?  My answer is: we have to be the ones to show them that’s it okay dance even if we can’t. I know that some of us aren’t the most coordinated, or just plain out of shape, but, if we want teens to have fun, we have to show them how. In fact, I have challenged a group of teens to beat me in a dance off and, so far, only one teen has. After hosting several Just Dance parties, I have seen so many teens come out of their shells because they recognize this program as a way to cut loose without having to be embarrassed by their lack of rhythm or being picked on. In fact, I have seen several teens show off their mad skills and it was so much fun! Bottom line:  Just Dance is all about having a good time  and getting into shape.

If you have a gaming system at home, or at your library, go to Gamestop and buy a used copy and give it a shot. In fact, host a Just Dance party with your colleagues and have a great time because once you try it, you will have a hard time stopping. Take it from me: I lost ten pounds from dancing in my living room a couple times a week so imagine hosting a Just Dance party every week?  Not only will you have happy and healthy teens, you will shed a pound or two as well! It’s a total win-win situation!


1 http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/HealthierKids/ChildhoodObesity/Overweight-in-Children_UCM_304054_Article.jsp

2 http://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/obesity/facts.htm

About Deborah Takahashi

Deborah Takahashi is a Senior Librarian for the Monterey Park Bruggemeyer Library. Deborah has been working with teens and children for seventeen years and loves every minute. Deborah is also the author of "Serving Teens with Mental Illness at the Library: A Practical Guide."

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