I Hope You’ll Dance

We have written often here about the benefits of incorporating balance training into your physical regimen since it improves your stability and, as a result, decreases the chances of falling and fracture.

One way to keep fit and agile is dancing. A study by an Italian heart institute found that study participants who danced three times per week improved oxygen health by 18 percent. Partner dancing and solo-style dancing, like the twist, provide full-body movements to create an aerobic workout. Improved heart health from dancing helps to decrease the risks for diseases and conditions such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, coronary heart disease, and stroke. Jonathan Skinner, Ph.D., an anthropologist from Queen’s University and Ireland’s Changing Ageing Partnership, conducted interviews with retired adults at dancing centers in Belfast; Blackpool, England; and Sacramento, California. He found communities of dancers who had developed close social networks, including dancers who continued despite losing the friends who had inspired them in the first place and others who couldn’t walk without the aid of a cane but somehow still could dance easily, cane-free, across a ballroom floor. “[Dancing] quite literally fires off the endorphins and takes away the aches, pains, and disabilities associated with old age,” Skinner explained.

Skinner’s research isn’t the first to link dancing to physical and emotional benefits for older adults. A 2003 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that the mental challenges involved in learning new dances ward off dementia. Another study published in the journal Circulation: Heart Failure found that patients with stable chronic heart failure experienced small improvements in cardiac health after waltzing for 30 minutes, three times a week. Plus, “In terms of socialization, dancing is a great way to get people of all ages interacting with each other,” says Pete McCall, an exercise physiologist with the American Council on Exercise.

If you don’t know how to dance, there are many programs at local Senior Centers and religious institutions.  Dancing is a fun, wonderful way to meet people and get healthy at the same time.

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