It is not surprising that Dancing With the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance have taken over the television airwaves. Dancing has always been a part of human culture, rituals and celebrations… almost as if it is wired in our DNA. Today, dancing is mostly a form of self-expression and recreation. However, it also has a surprising number of benefits to our body and mind, regardless of age, gender, dancing ability or size.
Heart healthy Aerobic activity—whether we cha cha cha or hip-hop—has us increasing our heart rates. And in doing so, we are strengthening our heart and allowing it to pump blood more efficiently. One study even showed that waltz training was similarly effective to standard treadmill and cycling activity at improving the cardiac function in patients with congestive heart failure. And that’s not all. The group that waltzed also reported improvement in their sleep quality, mood, and ability to
perform hobbies, housework, and have sex compared to the treadmill and cycling group.
What better way to burn calories than to have fun while we are doing it? Whether it is Zumba, pole dancing, or pairing up with a partner to jive, dancing can help us drop a dress size or two. Don’t believe me?
Just look at the transformation of the contestants on Dancing With The Stars at the end of the competition.
Memory booster Learning new skills, or in this case, steps, serves as a means to Foxtrot our memory. When it comes to our brain, it is a well-known fact that if we use it, we are less likely to lose it. Learning new dance steps is a mentally engaging activity that can decrease deterioration of the hippocampus—a structure in our brain that controls memory.
A great quote by Vivian Greene tells the story: “Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain,” both literally and figuratively. Physical activity is a well-known antidote to many of our life’s stressors. By keeping calm and dancing on, we can twirl, spin, step, and strut our way to reducing stress.
Increasing our flexibility Imagine having difficulty with our daily activities such as getting
out of bed, dressing ourselves, or playing with our children or grandchildren. Both inactivity and aging can impair our flexibility and worsen joint or back pain. Boogying is a great way to fend these off.
Dancing can improve balance as well as the ability to stabilize and control our body. As a result, it can be a useful tool in reducing the risk of falling in the elderly which can result in broken bones, gashes, or life-threatening head injuries.
Don’t worry, we do not need to be lifted in the air by our dance partner in order to have our spirits lifted. Dancing is not just a
great form of physical activity but can also provide the opportunity to socialize. Both are great ways to decrease our risk for developing depression and can even become a part of an overall treatment plan for those who are diagnosed with it.
What dance style is right for me?
Before choosing, some things to consider are if we want to improve our fitness, flexibility, or coordination; dance on our own, with a partner, or large group; or move fast or slow. And if we realize that the Texas Two-Step is not quite our groove of choice, don’t worry.
There are many forms out there that may suit our needs. Where can I learn how to dance? A myriad of options exist. Classes may be offered at a studio, continuing education course, social club, or fitness center.
Additionally, private instructors may come to our homes or recreation facility and self-learning may be an option with YouTube or other instructional videos.
Some general tips for dancing include: consult with our doctor if we have a medical condition, are overweight, over 40 years of age, or inactive; perform warm-up activities before twirling; know our limits, especially for beginners to avoid injury; and drink plenty of water before, during, and after.
Our bodies were meant to move. Dancing is unique in that it incorporates physical activity with music. As a result, it can also
reap a number of body and mind benefits. As Albert Einstein stated: “We dance for laughter, we dance for tears, we dance for madness, we dance for fears, we dance for hopes, we dance for screams, we are the dancers. We create dreams.” They say he was a genius. Let’s turn up the music and dance on.
* * * * *
Dr. Nina Radcliff is dedicated to her profession, her patients and her community, at large. She is passionate about sharing truths for healthy, balanced living as well as wise preventive health measures.
She completed medical school and residency training at UCLA and has served on the medical faculty at The University of Pennsylvania. She is a Board Certified Anesthesiologist and a member of the American Society of Anesthesiologists where she serves on committees for Young Physicians and Communications. Author of more than 200 textbook chapters, research articles, medical opinions and reviews; she is often called upon by media to speak on medical, fitness, nutrition, and healthy lifestyle topics impacting our lives, today.