From jiving around the kitchen to waltzing with your sweetheart, dancing just might be your new best friend when it comes to reducing joint pain, lowering stress, calming anxiety and getting a better night’s sleep.
Putting your best foot forward on the dance floor has a whole string of health benefits. In fact, according to Australian researchers who found that seniors with mood disorders who joined a short tango instruction program felt less depressed and less stressed.
As predicted, 80-year-olds who did low impact dance classes had less trouble with their hips and knees, and eight weeks of salsa dancing lessons done by other seniors groups showed improvements in balance, strength and social interaction. Another promising study that went on for 21 years at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine showed that aging adults who danced regularly had a 76 per cent reduced risk of developing dementia. How so? According to the experts, the theory is that dancing is beneficial for our brains as it combines cardio exercise with fast neural network decision-making that creates healthy new pathways in a dancer’s brains.
Dancing may be a better form of exercise than traditional fitness training with additional mental challenges often referred to as “sensorimotor demands.” These demands relate to bodily activity or movement triggered by sensory as well as motor impulses such as:
• Remembering different dance steps
• Being ready to start and able to holding your partner the right way
• Recognizing different beats
• Synchronizing movement with music
• Executing turns smoothly without bumping
• Moving together with another person or moving on your own in time with the music.
Sure classes are fine, fun and perhaps a little formal for some, but what if getting out to class is too much of a challenge or travel isn’t possible? After all, we are in the middle of lock-down, so let’s look at some alternatives to get you in the groove:
1 Dancing in the streets
Why not follow the lead of Toronto’s Roncesvalles neighbourhood where veteran boot scooters and beginners had a blast weaving back and forth in a country-western routine of shuffles, swivels and scuffs right on their own sidewalks. Led by instructor, Donna McDougall who combined line dancing and social distancing, the daily event turned into a fun-filled group fitness event and, got everyone safely out of the house. Top marks for creativity!
2 Virtual dance classes
Keep calm and carry on with a splash of dance while you stay super safe. Dance umbrella is sharing virtual dance performances and physical distancing-friendly events to make sure you stay active and feeling alive. Open to all, the organizers say there is “no body too unfit to explore what this community has to offer.” Danceumbrella.net
3 Check out YouTube
Beyond the more formal videos you can find online, YouTube is also home to some great clips and tips about dancing that are also free. If you can, project the videos up on your TV and follow along.
4 Dancing while sitting
Seniors who are unable to stand for long periods or have limited mobility can get creative and use a chair. Your loved one can turn on some music and stretch from side to side, reach high and low, kick his or her feet, and roll his or her ankles along to the beat. These exercises can increase flexibility and aid in weight loss and building muscle tone.
5 Dance battle
Challenge grandma or grandpa to a virtual dance-off; be there or be square. Make sure they have a webcam or holder for their phone, iPad or tablet so they can go hands-free. Then pick a time, a song, your video chat of choice and take turns showing each other what you’ve got. Remember, no one cares if you aren’t the best dancer in the world. It’s all about having fun and being good to both your mind and your body. So take a leap of faith, sit still no more and as Oprah once said, “every day brings a new chance for you to draw in a breath, kick of your shoes
“Sorry I didn’t pick up the phone. I got carried away dancing to the ring tone.”
Benefits of dance
Whether you’re 80 years young or eight years old, engaging in physical activities that involve dance changes you. From better physical and mental health to a boost in emotional and social well-being, moving your body to the sound of music can transform your life.
• Improves cardiovascular health. For health benefits, adults 80 plus should do at least 150 minutes to 300 minutes per week of moderate intensity, low impact exercise, or 75 minutes to 150 minutes per week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity.
• Improves balance and strength. Professional dancer Jonathan Tylicki, says one of the reasons dance is such a great form of physical fitness is because it incorporates movements on all planes of motion and from all directions.
• Gentle on your body. Many forms of dancing, such as ballroom, are appropriate for people with limited mobility or chronic health issues.
• Boosts cognitive performance. If you need a reason to get moving, consider this: A lot of research shows how dancing can maintain and even boost your ability to think as you age.
• Is inclusive. One of the greatest things about dance is that anyone can participate. If you’re able to move, even if it’s only your upper body, you can dance.
• Helps boost your mood. Expressing yourself through dance helps improve your mental and emotional health by reducing stress, decreasing the symptoms of anxiety and depression, and boosting your self-esteem.
• 76% of aging adults in another 21 year study at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine reduced their risk of developing dementia.