There’s a way to improve cardiovascular activity, boost strength and balance, enhance brain power, and reduce stress and anxiety. What is this wonder drug – that can even help you meet new people IRL or online?
Anybody can Dance
Anyone – even those with chronic health or mobility issues, or without a partner – can still dance.
Partner dancing, for example, can feature slower steps like the waltz, cha-cha, and fox-trot; faster ones include swing dance, the quick-step, country western dancing, the hustle, or Latin dances like salsa or mambo. If you don’t know how, there are local and national dance studios eager to teach singles or couples of all preferences; LGBTQ+ singles and couples are welcome.
Group dancing, in which the music plays and everyone follows the same steps, has a huge following, with square dancing, circle dancing or line dancing.
If you have mobility or other physical problems, you can even dance alone – yes, alone! — improvising as you do the lindy, hustle, free-style or hip-hop dancing with online dance parties (Senior Planet hosts one the last Friday of the month). There are even dance opportunities for differently-abled people (learn more here).
Besides being fun, dancing:
* Improves strength and balance. Unlike most types of exercise (walking, stair climbing, cycling, etc.), lateral and rotational muscles get regular workouts when you dance. The payoff, studies show, is improved strength and balance over time.
* Boosts brain power. In one study, volunteers between the ages of 63 and 80 were taught new dance moves. Follow-ups showed lasting effects on the neuroplasticity, important for the formation of new neural connections, in the volunteers’ brains.
Why is dancing so good for the brain and protective against cognitive decline and dementia? In the same way that different physical moves exercise different parts of your body, the constantly changing moves and varying patterns in dance activate the brain’s hippocampus. In addition, whether leading or following, the decision-making part of the brain and areas that control memory, planning and organizing skills, likewise get a work-out.
Improves mood. While combining physical exercise with the positive power of music, dancing of any kind also releases “happy hormones” like dopamine.
Senior Planet hosts an online dance party the last Friday of each month – have your playlist ready!
A social boost. And don’t forget: being around other people – either in person or on line – while having fun listening to music gives you a boost and the chance to meet new people.
Finding Dance Opportunities
- Senior Planet has you covered. Senior Planet hosts an online dance party the last Friday of the month. Here’s a link to the schedule of online dance parties, always on the last Friday of the month from 4-5 pm EDT. Registration is required for the Zoom dance party, so sign up for the next one on July 28 and bring your song requests!
- Dances for a Variable Population offers online classes suitable for all age groups. Here’s a link to check out its free video offerings.
- National and local dance classes. There are literally tons of opportunities to find a dance class where you can learn with a partner, or meet one. Arthur Murray is one of the most established for partnered classes; for solo fliers there’s also Jazzercise, Zumba, and of course church groups, community centers and senior centers.
Of course, before jumping into the Light Fantastic, make sure you find one that works for you.
Activity level. What movement style works for you? Fast or slow? Flexible or complicated? You might need trial and error to find the right mix.
Music preferences. What music moves you? R&B? Country and Western? You’ll enjoy the classes more if you start with sounds that get your toes tapping.
Amateur status. Naturally it’s easier if you’re picking up on a dance style you are familiar with. If it’s all brand new to you, give yourself time to pick up the steps and movements.
If you’re a newbie and feeling a little uncertain, you can always check out the tutorials on YouTube:
With so many health, mood and brain benefits going for it, you should start – or resume — dancing – soon. See you on the dance floor!
Have you been a lifelong dance enthusiast, or a latecomer? What dance do you enjoy? Share your thoughts in the comments!
Nona Aguilar is an award-winning writer of numerous magazine articles and two books. She has also edited four specialty business newsletter publications. Her work has appeared in Ladies Home Journal, Redbook, Family Circle and other outlets.