Dance Fitness Week – Health Benefits Re-hash

This week is “Dance Fitness Week” throughout the many Arthur Murray Dance Studios worldwide! We are celebrating and participating in all of the health benefits that Ballroom Dancing provides. It has been a great week so far! We decided to get some pedometers so that our students can see how much activity they log while dancing. While it has been fun, all of the different types of pedometer devices (pedometer, FitBit, iWatch) do not track our step activity very accurately. And here’s why…

As you progress (particularly in the smooth dances), the goal is to not step heavy, but to glide, to blend, to remain smooth. Now in the fast dances, the devices will count more steps, but there is another part to keep in mind – FitBits also count arm movement as a step. If you are dancing Waltz in a non-moving, closed frame, chances are it won’t equate to many steps- but it will count towards your health and fitness! By keeping yourself actively moving, you are able to achieve many health benefits.

Ballroom Dance is one of the few activities that improves your mind and body. We all know that dancing is great physical exercise, but what most of us don’t think about is how it affects our whole lives, from a physical, mental and emotional angle.

Dancing is a sport that involves your entire body. You activate different muscles that help improve your posture and coordination by constantly balancing and changing positions.

A little story…I had the opportunity to work with a middle aged student who had told me that she couldn’t even step off of a curb, but had no problem with swimming. She knew all of the different strokes and thoroughly enjoyed swimming. I wondered to myself, how could she have no problem with swimming, but has trouble stepping off of a curb?

The answer was simple…balance. When you are swimming, you are essentially weightless and there is no need for balance. However, in Ballroom Dancing, it is all about balance. You need to be able to rely on yourself physically, not your partner as you twirl and move around the dance floor.

In the beginning, she was only learning slow dances such as Foxtrot, a little 2 Step, and Waltz. She moved slowly and carefully, but kept up with her lessons with a different teacher. After some time away, I came back to teach her again and her balance had improved. She was now able to take longer steps and had begun working on turning. She shared with me how much dancing had improved her quality of life and how much stronger she felt. She told me that she now has no problem stepping off of a curb…talk about life changing.

Do you know that our nerves govern our senses of sight, touch, hearing, smell, and taste? They govern our memory, emotions, reasoning, and motor reflexes too. Doctors have long recognized the beneficial effects of exercise on the psyche and nerves themselves. Dancing is good for the nerves – it aids in relieving stress and strain as it counteracts nervous fatigue. If we need to think clearly and make intelligent decisions in our everyday life, we must possess a relaxed nervous system – that can be achieved through dancing.

Dancing has also been found to be the number one exercise in fighting the effects of Alzheimer’s Disease and reducing the risk of dementia.  Dancing has also been found to be the number one exercise in fighting the effects of Alzheimer’s Disease and reducing the risk of dementia. Dementia is not a single disease in itself, but a general term to describe symptoms involving impairments to memory, communication, and thinking. A number of brain disorders with more severe symptoms are classified as dementias, with Alzheimer’s Disease being the best known and most common. The craziest part is while the likelihood of having dementia increases with age, it is not a normal part of aging. Did you know that we slowly start losing our brain cells as we age past our 20’s? Yes, I said past our 20’s! So while I have always known dancing is “healthy” for me, I had no idea that the prevention of dementia started so young.

So let’s talk numbers…

What activities are lowering the risk of Dementia and Alzheimer’s?

Biking – 0%
Swimming – 0%
Golfing – 0%
Reading – 35%
Crossword puzzles – 47 % (4x per week)
Ballroom Dancing – 76%

In October 2014, A Better Health Channel Article remarked that Brain and Body Risk Factors could be controlled. Among them were participating in mental activities, social activities, and physical activities. Enough said!

Dancing has been proven to do wonders in the mood department. Some of the effects can reduce anxiety and depression. If you’ve ever heard Taylor Swift’s song – “Shake It Off,” this is exactly what’s happening when you dance away the unwanted stress. As you dance the night away, you diminish the levels of the stress hormone cortisol and this why we feel so good afterward. Music ignites the regions of the brain that process sound and emotion. When rocking to your favorite tune your brain will reward you with the “happy hormone” dopamine. So keep moving and grooving, your brain will thank you! And by the way- did you know that some doctors have been able to eliminate the need for antidepressants in a number of patients just by having them become more physically active to increase dopamine levels?

With the right stimulation, your brain can form new neural pathways, enhance your ability to learn new information, and improve your memory. According to a study in The New England Journal of Medicine, not only do you have more oxygen flow, but dancing has also been shown to boost memory and cognitive abilities. When dancing, we are constantly tapping into our brain’s memory for all of those new moves we just learned in our lesson. Just think of how quickly your brain has to work in order for our bodies to respond with the right movements. It releases endorphins to help make you happy!

While Ballroom Dancing can be a major key to living an amazing healthy life, these benefits will not be picked up in one week. I encourage you to continue learning, dancing, eating well, and enjoy life for years to come. Life isn’t a dress rehearsal, so make it a good one!

Live, love, dance, and enjoy!
Christy Melgoza

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