Dancing has proved to be such a health success story that everyone from the NHS to BUPA recommends it. The multiple benefits to health have encouraged more and more dance teachers to offer classes to older people. This year, the Royal Academy of Dance (RAD) is holding the Dance for Lifelong Wellbeing Conference (www.radeducation.org.uk), where experts from around the country will come together for discussions, demonstrations and to further knowledge about training for dance teachers who wish to teach older people.
Before you sign up for a class, however, find out the many ways your health could benefit. Dance helps keep your mind sharp. A study led by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City and funded by the National Institute on Ageing, USA, found that unlike other forms of exercise such as cycling or swimming, dancing was the only one to produce a beneficial effect on cognitive abilities. It helped reduce a person's risk of dementia in the long-term – a result not seen with any of the other forms of exercise.
Music lifts your spirits.
A study from the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital, Canada, found that when people listened to new music it lit up the same parts of the brain associated with 'rewarding' behaviours such as sex or eating food. Music gives you happy feet!
It’s a great opportunity to meet people.
Dance classes or groups offer an ideal opportunity to meet others without the pressure of having to make conversation to begin with. You can gradually get to know others while enjoying yourself.
Everyone can do it.
Most types of dance programmes are inclusive – people of all ages and skill levels are welcome. Of course, there are physical limits to anyone’s abilities and so you need to take care not to overdo it. If your doctor has advised against certain types of activity, check with him or her first before starting a class. And finally, be body aware. If it feels strenuous, stop. Dancing should be enjoyable!
It's a way to fight disease.
Cardiovascular disease, cancer, depression, osteoporosis, diabetes – you name it, exercise helps prevents it. And dance is just another form of exercise. Also, the people with those illnesses that might make dancing somewhat more difficult – heart disease, arthritis, for example – are also those who are most likely to benefit.
It helps prevent injuries.
Dance improves balance, your gait, and may even prevent falls and injuries as a result. Better posture and balance will also make you feel more confident, improving your overall quality of life.
Exercising in a group situation or with a partner automatically boosts your activity level. It's peer group pressure, but in a good way. So while you're at class seeing others trying their best to stick at it will help you do the same; and knowing that everyone else will be attending the class will also help motivate you to turn up too.
It's a lot of fun.
Running a treadmill, swimming at the pool or working out with weights at home are great forms of exercise, but when was the last time you grinned your way through any of those activities? With dancing, you'll enjoy the learning process and once you've mastered the steps, you'll continue to enjoy the experience.