Let’s Dance to Health
Dancing can be magical and transforming. It can breathe new life into a tired soul; make a spirit soar; unleash locked-away creativity; unite generations and cultures; inspire new romances or rekindle old ones; trigger long-forgotten memories; and turn sadness into joy, if only during the dance.
Like other moderate, low-impact, weight bearing activities, such as brisk walking, cycling or aerobics, dancing can help:
- strengthen bones and muscles without hurting your joints
- tone your entire body
- improve your posture and balance, which can prevent falls
- increase your stamina and flexibility
- reduce stress and tension
- build confidence
- provide opportunities to meet people, and
- ward off illnesses like diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, osteoporosis, and depression
So if you’re tired of the treadmill and looking for a fun way to stay fit and healthy, it might be time to kick up your heels!
Dancing is a great activity for people age 50 and older because you can vary the level of physical exertion so easily, according to Marian Simpson, a retired dance instructor and president of the National Dance Association.
For instance, people just getting back into dance or physical activity can start out more slowly, then “step it up a notch” by adding things like dips and turns as they progress, says Simpson. The more energy you put into a dance, the more vigorous your workout will be.
Although some dance forms are more rigorous than others – for instance, jazz as opposed to the waltz – all beginners’ classes should start you out gradually. Ballroom dance, line dancing, and other kinds of social dance are most popular among people 50 and older. That’s because they allow people to get together and interact socially, while getting some exercise and having fun at the same time. Dancers who have lost partners can come alone and meet new people, since many classes don’t require that you attend as a couple.
Exercise and Physical Benefits of Dancing
Exercise and Physical Fitness
With the pressures of job and social obligations tugging us every which way, it’s more and more difficult to find time for exercise. Maybe that’s why Americans are struggling with their weight and health more than ever. It’s no secret that moderate exercise and sensible eating habits are the key to remaining trim and fit. However, the thought of spending thirty minutes on a treadmill, or jogging around the block five times is out of the question for many of us. Dancing works like a stress and tension reducer. For people on a hectic schedule it can become a passion that helps you improve your attitude and increase your confidence in both social and business situations. That’s what makes dance the ideal exercise! After all, dancing is a mild aerobic workout, minus the boring part! When you take dance lessons, you make exercise a fun and enjoyable social event, every night of the week. Your dance “work out” takes place with pleasant music and everyone’s in a good mood. It’s fun.
Consider these dance facts:
- Dance contributes to increased personal confidence.
- Olympic athletes often include dance in their training to sharpen their control, agility, speed and balance.
- Dance is considered to be one of the top five physical activities, out of 60 studied.
- Dance contributes to good posture and body alignment.
- Dancing encourages gentle stretching.
- Dance increases your flexibility and stamina.
- As an aerobic exercise, dance benefits your cardiovascular system as you swing and sway from hips to shoulders.
- Some doctors recommend thirty minutes of dance, three times per week.
Ever since the International Olympic Committee gave ballroom dancing provisional recognition, it has been getting a lot of attention as a true athletic activity. One look at the fitness level and physiques of professional ballroom competitors, trainers and dance teachers is proof of its virtues.
“Ballroom dance is a rigorous activity that uses the larger muscle groups, and is usually done over the course of an hour, or an entire evening,” said George B. Theiss, President of Arthur Murray International. “It’s most frequently compared to ice dancing, and no one would question the athletic ability of an ice skater. Since we work without gliding across ice, it’s possible that a competitive ballroom dancer might even be in better shape than a figure skater.
Many people turn to ballroom dance when more traditional exercise programs fall by the wayside, either because of injuries or sheer boredom. Ballroom dance is a low impact activity. This makes it accessible to people of at any age or fitness level. With less emphasis on “going for the burn” and more on having fun; the weight loss, improved circulation and aerobic conditioning emerges as a wonderful side effect.
There are many health and physical benefits associated with dancing. Many new dancers find that their physical fitness, body language and physical confidence improve as they progress in ballroom dancing.
Would you like to lose weight and have more shapely legs?
Dancing for 30 minutes burns calories equivalent to walking, swimming and cycling. Repeatedly doing dance steps is a cardiovascular exercise and works out the major muscle groups. In a short period of time of dancing, you will burn fat tissue and increase muscle mass in your legs. As you continue to dance you will experience an increase in the strength, size and firmness of your legs. You can think of it like this: every time you go dancing, it is like going to the gym.
Now isn’t this kind of exercise a lot more fun than doing squats in the gym?
Do you slouch and have poor posture?
Ballroom dancing will improve your posture and the way you walk. You will develop correct postural movement if you practice regularly dancing over time. Gradually, you will train your muscle memory to correct the habitual movements that have led to poor posture. As you learn to dance, your normal movement will improve. Your self-image will improve as you walk tall and straight.
The way to accelerate this process is to consciously apply the the elements of balance, timing and carriage of your body to your daily routine.
Are you stressed and tired most of the time?
Dancing will alleviate stress and increase your feeling of well-being. Stress is a daily reality for us all and can lead to some serious health problems. Consistent dancing exercise over time leads to lower blood pressure and lower cholesterol levels.
In today’s fast pace of life, reducing stress is a necessity, not an option. Dancing can give you a break from difficult circumstances. Dancing is a great stress relief for both your body and your mind. Through dancing, you can release emotional blockages (e.g. anger, sadness, worry) in your nervous system and learn how to relax through movements.
Would you like to have more fun and enjoyment in your life?
Women dance because of the music. Men dance because of the women. They both love to dance because it is fun and intimate. Not only is it fun, ballroom dancing balances your mind and body, strengthens your muscles, improves your self-confidence, and maintains your health. What’s not to like?
Dancing can bring about a wide range of physical and mental benefits:
Healthier heart and lungs
Regular exercise can lead to a slower heart rate, lower blood pressure and an improved cholesterol profile. Experts typically recommend 30 to 40 minutes of continuous activity three to four times a week. Dancing may not provide all the conditioning you need, but it can help. The degree of cardiovascular conditioning depends on how vigorously you dance, how long you dance continuously and how regularly you do it.
Though not exactly an evening of lifting weights, you’ll discover that an evening of dancing will work many different muscle groups. Though not exactly what you would use to gain a lot of muscle mass, regular dancing will improve a lot of muscle groups especially in your torso and legs helping improve muscle tone and strength through repetition of movement.
Stronger bones and a reduced risk of osteoporosis
The side-to-side movements of many dances strengthen your weight bearing bones (tibia, fibula and femur) and can help prevent or slow loss of bone mass (osteoporosis).
Better coordination, agility, and flexibility
The more you study dancing, the more you will discover that there are always new challenges that will push the limits of your coordination, agility, and flexibility. In pursuing a greater understanding of dance technique and style, you will discover that it will challenge you while helping you gain better coordination, agility, and flexibility.
Improved balance and enhanced spatial awareness
Because dancing requires movement, you will develop awareness for how your body moves, as well as the ability to control how your body moves and balances. Because you are moving so differently than you do in other tasks, dancing will challenge your spatial awareness as well, giving you a better understanding and comfort in maneuvering your own body especially when a partner is involved.
Increased physical confidence
In knowing your body and understanding your limits, you will gain confidence in yourself. Dancing regularly can help you understand yourself better as you also improve your physical condition and help you find confidence in yourself.
Improved mental functioning
Dancing is as much a mental challenge as a physical one. Moving by yourself is something most people can do without much thought, but the game changes when there is another person involved. Social dances require thought in addition to movement and can help keep your mind sharp.
Improved emotional well-being
Dance provides an emotional outlet in which a person can truly reflect his or her feelings through body movement. The ability to dance is present in everyone, it only needs to be cultivated through sound instruction methods. Then you’re on your own, expressing yourself with passion and flair.
Help counteract unwanted weight gain
Dancing can burn as many calories as walking, swimming or riding a bicycle. During a half-hour of sustained dancing you can burn between 200 and 400 calories. Imagine what a whole night of dancing can do for you.
Because dancing demands your attention, it will divert your thoughts from the stresses of your day. The thinking required to pay attention to your partner, listen to the music, and create the journey that is the dance pushes aside all other thoughts. Plus, socializing with other dancers is another factor. Let’s not forget that dancing is FUN, and if you have to escape stress, you might as well have fun!
If you’re recovering from heart or knee surgery, movement may be part of your rehabilitation. Dancing is a positive alternative to aerobic dance or jogging. Because there are many different styles of dance, you’ll have option that will help you regain lost mobility or strength without the risk of re-injury that many other sports or activities would have.
Dancing contains a social component that solitary fitness endeavors don’t. It gives you an opportunity to develop strong social ties which contribute to self-esteem and a positive outlook. Plus, it’s nice to have a bunch of friends to go out and have good clean fun with!
Strengthen intimate relationships
I don’t think you’ll find a married couple who dance together and regret it. Dancing is a very unique and special thing to be able to share with a spouse or loved one. It is a way to spend some very quality time together without distraction, both enjoying each other’s company and sharing a fun activity together.
How Many calories will you burn while dancing?
That depends on the type of dancing. Here’s a range of some of the most popular varieties, based on a 150-pound person, per hour:
* Swing dancing: 235 calories/hour
* Ballroom dancing: 265
* Square dancing: 280
* Ballet: 300
* Belly dancing: 380
* Salsa dancing: 420+
* Aerobic dancing: 540+
Salsa Timing – How To Improve Your Salsa Timing
Have you just started to dance salsa, but found learning salsa timing a struggle? If so, welcome to the group. When I started it took me nearly two years to even found out there was a such a thing. I learned the basic steps (Cumbia steps) from a couple of native Colombians. For them finding the salsa rhythm was second nature. Not so much for me.
I struggled for months just trying to find the rhythm . I was determined that I was going to learn it . I bought couple of VHS tapes (as there were no salsa DVD’s or Youtube at the time), but even my first tapes offered no help in learning to count the music, which I later found is very significant part to learning more complicated moves.
So how did I finally improve my salsa timing?
I started by learning to recognize and detect the salsa rhythm first . Salsa rhythm is the quick, quick, slow, quick, quick, slow pattern inherit in every salsa song. In my experience, many of the people from Latin American countries who grow up with salsa music often do not care whether they dance salsa on the right count as long as they simply maintain the correct salsa rhythm.
As salsa dancers we can count the salsa music in phrases of 8, meaning 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8. As dancers, loosely speaking we then usually do not count the 4th and 8th beat of the music as our basic steps fall in the counts of 1,2,3, and 5,6,7. This also explains the rhythm, quick, quick, slow, quick, quick, slow.
Here comes my first very important advice for you.
There is nothing more important in developing your salsa timing than simply listening to a lot of salsa songs . at the start, I learned to recognize the salsa rhythm simply by listening to salsa music. First it was arduous. But after I continue to exert mental effort in listening to the music, I slowly began to develop my musical ear. I first began to notice that there are some salsa songs that have a much stronger emphasis on the core beats 1,3,4,7 which usually makes it much easier to recognize the rhythm at leas in the beginning. Initially, I tried to only find the songs that made it easier for me to keep on the rhythm. Then as I got more comfortable in recognizing the quick, quick, slow, pattern I began searching for clues for how I might learn to recognize the first beat of the music as well.
Some such clues are that the singer often starts to sing on the beginning of the 8 count phrase on the first beat of the music. Also, I began to notice that some instruments actually play a 8 count pattern repeatedly over and over again. One of those rhythms I later found out was called montuno often played with piano.
Then, I began purchasing salsa DVD’s and paid close attention to how the salsa instructors counted the music as they demonstrated certain patterns and how their counting corresponded to the music. I continued to take salsa dance classes whenever I could and paid careful attention on how the instructor counted the music. Finally, whenever I went to dance in the clubs, I gathered around to watch some of the best dancers. Even if I could not really recognize the counting in the music, I knew that the best dancers would most likely not be off time. I simply observed how their steps reflected to the music and I was able to slowly become more and more comfortable being able to count the music no matter what the song is.
And there you have it, few tips on how I improved my salsa timing. Good luck!
Source: Ballroom Dancing Grand Rapids blog
Demographic tsunami? Let’s dance!
Aging population isn’t quite the crisis that doomsayers crack it up to be
When it comes to issues of health and wellness for today’s seniors, there is a crisis that requires our immediate attention: the belief that an aging “tsunami” of Zoomers represents a financial catastrophe in the making. The supposed problems are the health-care and pension burdens we are about to impose on succeeding generations, as they struggle to pay for our huge, decaying demographic. Open any newspaper, walk into any bookstore, type “Boomer” and “crisis” into Google and you can’t avoid dire predictions.
What appears to be intuitively obvious is not backed up by a lot of empirical evidence. So allow me to spread a little doubt.
The health-care tsunami thesis is based on a simple equation. At roughly the same time that our massive generation begins to cut back from work, we’ll also begin taking up a disproportionate percentage of the health-care budget. The problem is exacerbated because there are so many of us and we’ll likely live longer than our own parents did. If life expectancy were still 65, as it was in the early 1940s, it would be one thing; but life expectancy is now approaching 81, which means an extra 20 years or so on what the theory sees as a “health-care dole.” Thus, Zoomers are destined to take far more out of the public coffers than we put in. And because succeeding generations are considerably smaller than we Boomers/Zoomers, where in 2005 there were four workers “supporting” each retiree, by 2031 there will be only two. Ergo, we will no longer represent a net gain, but a net drain.
Let’s start with the first half of the equation: How much will we actually contribute to society as we become a generation of seniors and elders and what I call the Immortals (100-plus)? In 2009, Canadians 45-plus (our Zoomer baseline) numbered approximately 14 million, or about 42 per cent of the total population of 34 million. These millions of Canadians made up 53 per cent of all tax-filers. What’s often overlooked in discussions of the senior “burden” is the fact that most retirees and pensioners continue to pay tax. By the year 2031, it’s projected that there will be about 19 million Canadians age 45 and older, or 49 per cent of a total projected population of 39 million. By extrapolation, Zoomers at that point will comprise 63 per cent of all Canadian tax-filers.
Unless we all receive tax refunds, the model suggests that we’ll be paying for the lion’s share of government expenditures in 2031 — but we’ll still be barely half of the population. Not only will we be paying for ourselves, covering all our own costs, but we might well be helping cover health-care costs for the next population waves as well. Such is the power of the Zoomer “tsunami.”
But wait, won’t Zoomers consume far more than simply their proportional amount of health care? Well, while it’s true that the health-care cost is definitely heavier for seniors, the degree by which it’s heavier appears to be far smaller than predictions would have us believe. According to the latest Statistics Canada reports, 90 per cent of Canadians aged 65-plus have visited a doctor “in the past 12 months.” This may seem high, until you consider that 82.8 per cent of Canadians aged 45 to 64 have also seen doctors in the past year; not to mention 80 per cent of 35- to 44-year-olds, 78.2 per cent of 15- to 19-year-olds and, surprise, at least 85 per cent of all children under 12.
So yes, the argument can be made that seniors see doctors more often and for longer appointments than younger people in any given year — but the difference in time taken isn’t that much and, going back to that tax-filing rate, it would appear seniors are paying in full for the extra service.
Perhaps the most dramatic evidence against the tsunami health-crisis thesis is the answer to this simplest of all questions: “How do you feel?” Pose this question to a group of 40-year-olds, as was done in the 2005 Canadian Community Health Survey, and 92 per cent will describe their physical health as “good,” “very good” or “excellent.” Ask a group of 60-year-olds the same question, and 83 per cent will give you the same good-to-excellent response; 70-year-olds — 78 per cent; 80-year-olds — 67 per cent. If this seems like some old people are gilding the lily by overestimating their actual physical hardiness, another table in that same survey, which used objective medical professional assessment as opposed to self-assessment, found that more than 70 per cent of 70-year-old Canadians were in “very good or perfect functional health.” Even 80-year-olds topped the 50 per cent mark.
The fact is that the majority of older Canadians today are healthy, thanks to better fitness, diet, nutrition and other wellness practices. Most debilitating conditions and catastrophic pathologies don’t occur until after the age of 80 and, increasingly, not till after 85.
This profile doesn’t jibe with media-driven popular perception. The tsunami scenario sees the Zoomer demographic, with our large numbers and increased life expectancy, as a group of people who are destined to spend most of their time simply staying alive and costing everybody else money.
Well, while “staying alive” was a catchy refrain during the disco era, just staying alive is no way to live! And it’s not the way we do live! At the risk of calling Zoomers to the barricades, I think it’s incumbent on us to set the record straight about the “threat” our aging bodies represent to future generations. Old age isn’t a disease any more than infancy is. Most Zoomers are active, contributing members of society, and we’ll be that way for the lion’s share of our aging years. Just staying alive is not our preference; living well till we die is. So spread the word: when it comes to health and wellness, we’re not just part of the problem, we’re actually part of the solution. We might even be worth more to the world alive than dead.
Moses Znaimer is president of CARP, a non-profit, non-partisan association for Canada’s 14.5 million people aged 45-plus and those who care for them.
Source: North York Star (online), Sun May 30 2010.
The Health Benefits of Dancing
If you secretly sashay across your living room when you’re home alone or long to cha-cha with your significant other, you’re in luck. Not only is dancing an exceptional way to let loose and have fun, but it also provides some terrific benefits for your health.
In fact, Mayo Clinic researchers reported that social dancing helps to:
- Reduce stress
- Increase energy
- Improve strength
- Increase muscle tone and coordination
And whether you like to kick up your heals to hip hop, classical or country, the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) says that dancing can:
- Lower your risk of coronary heart disease
- Decrease blood pressure
- Help you manage your weight
- Strengthen the bones of your legs and hips
Dancing is a unique form of exercise because it provides the heart-healthy benefits of an aerobic exercise while also allowing you to engage in a social activity. This is especially simulating to the mind, and one 21-year study published in the New England Journal of Medicine even found dancing can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia in the elderly.
In the study, participants over the age of 75 who engaged in reading, dancing and playing musical instruments and board games once a week had a 7 percent lower risk of dementia compared to those who did not. Those who engaged in these activities at least 11 days a month had a 63 percent lower risk!
Interestingly, dancing was the only physical activity out of 11 in the study that was associated with a lower risk of dementia. Said Joe Verghese, a neurologist at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and a lead researcher of the study, “This is perhaps because dance music engages the dancer’s mind.”
Verghese says dancing may be a triple benefit for the brain. Not only does the physical aspect of dancing increase blood flow to the brain, but also the social aspect of the activity leads to less stress, depression and loneliness. Further, dancing requires memorizing steps and working with a partner, both of which provide mental challenges that are crucial for brain health.
How Good of a Workout is Dancing, Really?
The amount of benefit you get from dancing depends on, like most exercises, the type of dancing you’re doing, how strenuous it is, the duration and your skill level.
Says exercise physiologist Catherine Cram, MS, of Comprehensive Fitness Consulting in Middleton, Wisconsin, “Once someone gets to the point where they’re getting their heart rate up, they’re actually getting a terrific workout. Dance is a weight-bearing activity, which builds bones. It’s also “wonderful” for your upper body and strength.” Plus, dancing requires using muscles that you may not even know you had.
“If you’re dancing the Foxtrot, you’re taking long, sweeping steps backwards. That’s very different than walking forward on a treadmill or taking a jog around the neighborhood … Ballroom dancing works the backs of the thighs and buttock muscles differently from many other types of exercise,” says Ken Richards, professional dancer and spokesman for USA Dance, the national governing body of DanceSport (competitive ballroom dancing).
Physical benefits aside, dancing has a way of brightening up a person’s day, says ballroom owner and operator Karen Tebeau.
“A lot of times, when people come into the studio, it’s because there’s been a change in their life: a divorce or they’ve been through a period of depression. They (continue) coming in, and you see a big change. After a while, they’re walking in with a sunny expression. You know it’s the dancing that’s doing that,” she says.