If you’re over 50, your kids are likely grown and you’ve probably got the house to yourself again, at least part of the time. Guess what fun thing you can do everyday in your newfound privacy that will make you both happier and healthier? Read on and let me tell you about it…
Dancing: The Fun and Simple Activity That Will Lengthen Your Life
I know you remember the 80’s movie, Risky Business, where a much younger Tom Cruise came sliding across his wood floors dancing and lip-synching to Bob Seger’s, Old Time Rock N’ Roll. Like many people, you may have even tried to duplicate that scene in your own home with your music, lip-synching and dancing. And you had a great time doing it, right?
But what you probably didn’t realize is that doing fun, simple, goofing around dancing like that on a regular basis is really good for your health, especially now that you’re older. Just simply cutting loose on your wood floors to some great dance music helps your health and may even extend your life.
It might sound too good to be true – fun and exercise don’t usually go together. But, it is true and health researchers continue to prove it all the time. Here’s what dancing several times a week can do for an older person’s health:
- Fires up brain cells. The New England Journal of Medicine reported that dancing just twice a week decreases your risk of developing dementia. It also helped stimulate the memory of people who already had Alzheimer’s dementia
- Strengthens bones. Any movement where your feet impact the floor, or ground, stimulates your bones to grow. But dancing is very gentle on joints so people with arthritis find dancing easier to do than other forms of exercise.
- Brightens your mood. Many older people can be prone to mood shifts from changing hormones and loneliness. Listening and dancing to upbeat music stimulates the production of “happy hormones” in your brain. Pretty soon, you’re moving to the beat, laughing and having a great time.
- Reduces stress. Stress is the #1 health hazard of older people. Chronic stress can lead to a chronic flood of hormones that create inflammation throughout your body. As you’ve probably read in my articles before, inflammation is the #1 cause of many illnesses. Studies show dancing promotes a positive outlook on life. Once you start dancing, the “feel good” factor keeps your interest from waning. You’ll want to keep going back for more.
- Boosts flexibility and balance. Dancing makes your body move in space in a 3-dimensional way. It stimulates your brain to work harder to keep you balanced, upright, and prevent falling. You strengthen, and make more flexible, those muscles that keep you balanced, like those of your core, lower back, gluteus, and thigh muscles. Falls are the primary cause for fractures in older people.
- Boosts oxygen intake. As you get older, your lung capacity can decrease, simply because you don’t get enough regular aerobic exercise to keep their capacity strong. Decreased oxygen intake has a great impact on every tissue of your body, most notably your brain and heart.
Less oxygen in your blood makes your metabolism slow down and all your functions to slow. Dancing comfortably increases your lung capacity and endurance. As a result you get less tired and winded doing simple activities of daily living – climbing stairs, carrying grocery bags, laundry, etc. And your heart and brain work more efficiently.
But you don’t have to confine your dancing to your home. Especially if you live alone, you might consider getting out and taking a dance class with others. Doing so can add even more longevity health benefits. It’s also of special benefit to single people.
It’s been known for a while now that older people who live alone are more prone to depression and loneliness. These 2 factors create chronic stress and dangerous inflammation. People stay healthier and live longer when they have more satisfying social lives.
Even just going to the gym everyday doesn’t really have the same social benefits that dancing in a class with others does. In the gym, there’s not much opportunity to connect with people. Most have their headphones plugged into their music and are focused on their workouts.
In a dance class, you come in close proximity to other people as you dance. You physically and mentally need to connect with them in order to perform. A study out of the Albert Einstein University College of Medicine has shown that people who dance socially have less depression, stress and loneliness. Whether its ballroom, square or line dancing, ballet, zumba, sweating to the oldies, hip hop, or jazz, dancing offers the chance to interact with people and make new friends.
So, whether you just want to dance like no one’s watching in your living room, or get out and learn a new dance in a class, or join a weekly dance club, regular dancing can boost both your physical and mental health. And that’s the key to living longer – health and happiness!
Mark Rosenberg, M.D.
The Health Benefits of Dancing, http://www.sixwise.com/newsletters/05/11/02/the-health-benefits-of-dancing—-including-specific-benefits-of-different-dances.htm
Health Benefits of Dancing, http://www.hss.edu/newsroom_health-benefits-dance-fitness-trend-dancing-with-the-stars.asp#.VMf9WSzHWKw
Ballet for Health and Longevity, http://classicalballetnews.com/ballet-for-health-and-longevity/