“Can-do” Heat in Your Heels: Put on Your Dancing Shoes

“Can-do” Heat in Your Heels: Put on Your Dancing Shoes

Want to get in shape, have fun and get out of the house for a few hours? Then it’s time to put a little boogie in your step.

Nowadays, you can find all kinds of dance groups at gyms, community centers, churches and even local parks. From gatherings devoted to the allemande (a courtly baroque dance in which the arms are interlaced) to the flamenco, there are dance styles from every culture, at every speed and at every level of physical ability.

The cool thing about dance is that its benefits are not only physical. According to one researcher, dance helps maintain a connection to everyday life because it encourages fun and enjoyment by getting people out of their houses and interacting with their communities.1 These are only the social benefits of dance; the physical ones are just as good.

Of course, thanks to television shows like “Dancing with the Stars” and “So You Think You Can Dance,” we’ve all been exposed to genres like Rumba, Hip-hop and Bollywood but the real importance of dancing – no matter what the style – is that it gets you moving. Research has clearly shown the benefits of dance for older adults with arthritis, osteoporosis and neurological conditions. You don’t have to be living with a chronic condition to see the benefits of dancing; it helps in other ways as well. You can see overall health wins such as improved cardiovascular function, better balance and even reduced risk of falls for older dancers.

There have even been studies showing that low-impact dance can help to ease pain. In a 12-week, low impact dance program, St. Louis University researchers found that older adults, with an average age of 80, were able to decrease the amount of their pain medication by 39 percent. In addition, they also reported being able to move around more easily.

Finally, there has even been a study suggesting that dance can help put off dementia. A 21-year study led by Albert Einstein College of Medicine showed that older adults who danced regularly reduced their risk of dementia by 76 percent.

How Do I Start?

That’s easy: check out your community newspaper or local websites to find dance groups in your area.

Once you’ve found some classes, start exploring. Depending on your health, you may want to jump right in, or you can visit the class, talk to the instructor and maybe a couple of participants to see if it’s to your liking.

In any case, unless you’re already in great shape, here are a couple of things to keep in mind when starting a dance class:

  1. Start slowly. Learning new dance moves isn’t easy so don’t be discouraged. There will be plenty of time to dazzle the class with your moves.
  2. Before your first class, talk to the instructor about any limitations you might have so they can suggest variations.
  3. As with any exercise regime, run it by your doctor. He or she may have a recommendation about what will be best for you.
  4. Have fun!

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Sources: Wikstrom, B.M. (2004). Older adults and the arts: The importance of aesthetic forms of expression in later life. Journal of Gerontological Nursing, 30(9), 30–36. 2019, https://www.agingcare.com/articles/health-benefits-of-dancing-170535.htm leaving site icon

Originally published 5/22/2017; Revised 2019, 2022