By Kimberlee Bethany Bonura, PhD
Whether your Valentine’s Day plans include a romantic partner, dear friends, or a solo activity, why not trip the light fantastic? In other words: make like Fred and Ginger and go dancing!
Dancing, research increasingly shows, is good for both your physical and your psychological health.
1. In terms of physical health, dancing is good exercise.
One scholarly review found that dancing improved a range of physical strengths and abilities, including cardiovascular endurance, muscle strength and flexibility, and balance. Balance, in particular, is important for maintaining health and independence in older adults, since improved balance reduces a risk of falls. Research has found that while falls are common among older adults, they can be devastating and the risk of mortality increases drastically after a serious fall.
2. Dancing may even improve physical strength and balance among older adults with Parkinson’s disease-related balance issues.
One research study found improved balance, walking distance, and backward stride among participants in a 13-week dance class. Both tango and foxtrot participants improved compared to a control group who took no dance classes, and tango participants improved the most. The researchers proposed that the rhythm of dancing activated brain areas necessary to improve balance and functioning.
3. Dancing is also great for your mind and psychological health.
One longitudinal study published in the New England Journal of Medicine reported that dancing was associated with a lower risk of dementia. A 12-week dance intervention found that dance participation reduced the experience of bodily pain. Other research with older adults in care homes and facilities has found that a variety of dance interventions (line dancing, social dancing, and aerobic dancing) all improve wellbeing and enjoyment by the individuals in the home. And a study with older adults with depression found that dance lessons improved self-efficacy and reduced hopelessness.
4. Dance melds health and fun in one.
When you put on your dancing shoes and hit the floor, you get physical exercise, maintain your memory, improve your mental health, and have fun in the process. Plus, there is the magic of dressing up, remembering the dances of your youth, and enjoying the beat of the music. Can you think of a better way to spend an afternoon or evening?
Ready to go dancing?
In your local area, check the calendars and schedules of these organizations, which often host regular dances.
At most dance venues, a free introductory lesson is usually included at the start of the evening. Dances are often hosted on a regular basis at: Community Centers, Senior Citizen Centers, VFW halls, and American Legion halls. Many college extension programs and community continuing education program host dance classes as part of their courses. Dance studios often have introductory packages to get you started at a low cost, and once you meet dancers in your area, you’ll learn of other opportunities in the area.
USA Dance has chapters throughout the US. Most chapters host regular social dances at a minimal fee, and include an introductory dance lesson before the start of each social dance. You can make friends with local dancers and have a fun evening on the town. Find your local chapter here.Click here
Line dancing instructor Bill Bader offers a list of line dancing venues by country and state. Click here to look in your area. The United Country Western Dance Council promotes both line dancing and country partner dancing around the US and the world, through dance festivals and competitions. Local events in your area will include lessons and opportunities to dance. Click here to learn more about UCWDC.
Zumba (a Latin-based dance exercise program) and Jazzercise both offer the benefits of dance in group exercise format. Many gyms, fitness centers, community centers, and YMCAs offer Zumba and Jazzercise classes, and classes are often included in your membership. You can also look for Zumba dance classes by clicking here (on the main page, click on “Find a Class). For Jazzercise, click here to find a class in your area.
Kimberlee Bethany Bonura, PhD, is the Division 47 (Sport and Exercise Psychology) liaison to APA’s Committee on Aging. As an exercise scientist, Dr. Bonura focuses on promoting health and wellness through fun activities and self-care. Dr. Bonura has been an amateur ballroom dancer for more than two decades, and plans to keep her balance and maintain her memory by twinkling her toes. Learn more about her work at www.drkimberleebonura.com or contact her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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